The couple didn’t seem to care that they’d squared off in a public place. Each hurled explosive verbal artillery, heedless of bystanders. I tried to ignore them, but I cringed, wondering. What had hardened their hearts? Stolen their long-ago newlywed dreams? Capsized their love boat?
If only they’d heard — and long ago — Garry and Lydia’s honeymoon story. Our long-married (stick-together-through-thick-and-thin-and-glad-we-did) friends tell it on themselves at family weddings and anniversaries.
The adventurous pair chose a wilderness experience for their honeymoon, a campout on an isolated island in the B.C.’s Cariboo region. To reach it, they would paddle a canoe and all their gear from the shore.
I’ve never asked her, but Lydia may have pictured that first chapter of her marriage as a tranquil and romantic journey with her new husband. Her dreamboat in a love boat. Not quite the Love Boat Skipper Gavin MacLeod commanded in the classic TV series, but still a storybook way to launch a perfect marriage. A horror story, as it happened.
Lake storms rise suddenly in the mountains. Within minutes, they can whip a serene body of water into a churning expanse of foam and sound, like the view through your washing machine window. The storm they encountered did all that — and they had no lifejackets.
The two paddled hard, straining to reach the island before things got worse. Then things got worse. The gale tossed the canoe to and fro, ripping Lydia’s pluckiness clean off her strong young spine, leaving only a piercing shriek. “Gaaaaaaarry! Let’s turn around!”
I imagine Garry at the stern, jaw clenched. His paddle flies from port to starboard in a desperate attempt to navigate the canoe. To plunge the prow into the waves at the correct angle. To keep on the lake’s topside. To keep their destination in sight. Lydia in the prow, terror-gripped, paddles ferociously, repeating often her retreat call.
Up ahead, their honeymoon island seems more distant each moment. Worst of all, no sign of Jesus, walking on the water.
But turn back? Not a chance. Garry knew that in the pitching of the waves, even the slightest change of course could capsize them. He set his face. Clenched his teeth. Pulled harder. Paid no attention, or so it seemed, to his dearly beloved.
She called again, shrill-voiced. This time he answered, though not the way his new wife hoped.
“Lydia! Shut up and keep paddling!”
Lydia had the good sense to listen. And because she did, they reached their island safely. Over four decades later, those words have become a family slogan.
Got storms? Ready to pull the plug on your marriage — or anything you were once certain of? Your faith, your work, your hope? Consider well. Whether you realize it or not, God hasn’t abandoned you. Sometimes he calms storms; sometimes he helps us weather them. But he’s always there.
Take it from Lydia and Garry: Your best chance of survival could be to “Shut up and keep paddling!”