I have many wonderful memories from childhood of long summer family holidays on the East Coast of Tasmania. Scamander was a favourite spot for us with its long white sandy beach, pelicans parading on the sandbars and the beautiful Scamander River for fishing. My dad used to take what he called his infamous ‘bream rod’ and every year we’d keep a tally of how many fish the bream rod caught.  One year we hired a small tinny to try and catch more fish and so my dad, my younger brother and I ventured out onto the dark tea tree coloured waters in search of the elusive bream.

My father and brother were much more serious fishermen than I, consequently they had the rods and I was given a hand line with no expectations that I’d actually catch anything.

Ah, the serenity, drifting along with an easy current and occasional turn of the oar as the summer sun glinted on the water. Pleasant to be away from the ants, mozzies and snakes we’d find when we went to our usual haunts on the banks of the river. So there I was, leisurely dangling my hand line over the side with a small amount of bait attached, when suddenly, the line grabbed and the small hand reel was almost reefed from my grasp.

I got so much more than I bargained for because the pressure on the line was incredible and cutting through my hand. As I wound in the now taut line, up from the depths of the dark water came what looked like a snake, spiraling it’s body around the line, attempting to free itself from the hook.

Yes, no surprise here, I panicked, screamed, stood up quickly in the tinny and hurled the hand line in the direction of my father. Into the boat came a rather large eel which promptly landed in the bottom of the now wobbling tinny.

Both my brother and I scrambled as far away as we could yelling and screaming as this monster from the deep writhed just under our feet.

Firstly, my dad told us to sit still and be quiet.

My brother then boldly got out his fishing knife and attempted to pin the eel just behind its head. Instead of dying, the eel wrapped its body around the knife and pulled it out.

Again my father had to remind us to sit still and be quiet as we tried to scramble further from this frightening creature. Dad proceeded to cut off the head of the eel, which meant the body and head now separated, still writhed in the bottom of the boat all the way back to the jetty where my brother and I leapt out, relieved to be on land again.

My dad skinned and cut up the eel to take back for our dinner. Mum carefully placed the pieces of eel in the fridge on a plate only to find on the next opening of the door that all the pieces had wriggled off the plate. We, all except our father, decided we weren’t going to eat something that still wriggled. He said we’d be missing out on a very sweet meal.

Suffice to say, all these years later I still remember the unexpected encounter with an eel and while now I can smile about it, at the time it was rather terrifying to a young girl.

No doubt you all have some events like that in your life, where something occurred that you least expected. For me, I, with the poorest equipment, caught the only catch of the day.

There are times when we cope well with those unexpected moments, the ‘surprises’ of life. And sometimes, not so.

Then as a young girl, I had a father who took charge, kept us afloat and relatively calm, heading us safely back to the jetty.

In life, I find that I look to God to do that for me when I feel out of my depth and trapped in situations or circumstances I feel unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with.  I am thankful for a heavenly Father who is in control, can deal with all the situations I face in my life, protecting and providing for me when I need it.

Yes at times, I still get wobbly and panic when I feel out of control. It’s human nature and no surprise to our heavenly Father who sits right in the boat of life with us. I’m not alone, God is a constant gentle presence in every circumstance. He’s a very good Father to his children.

My hope is that you can find safety and protection in your life as you turn to your heavenly Father for the help you need in the unexpected out of control moments of life. He keeps his promises and can be trusted always. He’s in the boat, right there with you. You are not alone.