I know a girl. She is tall. Slim. Has freckles. And the most beautiful long, dark red hair. But this isn’t what is so special about Rachel. You see, Rachel is fast. I know this because she once challenged me to a running race once. I said yes. That was my mistake.
Right from the start she was ahead. And about half way to the finish line, she turned around and called “hurry up slow poke” and giggled! Not a mean giggle. A funny giggle. So funny that I had to giggle too. Which made me even slower!
Rachel doesn’t have a mean streak in her. She is even nice to her younger brother. Almost all the time. I know, because I stayed at her home. During winter. In America. And while I was there, the most amazing thing happened.
You see, it doesn’t always snow where Rachel lives. Even in winter. But this winter, on this day, it snowed. And did it ever! Not little dabs of snow here and there. No. This was real snow! It felt like an avalanche falling straight from the sky. Soon you couldn’t see the lawn. Then you couldn’t see the road. Then you couldn’t even see the cars parked by the side of the road. All you could see was white. White. White. Everywhere.
For some people, all this snow was a right bother. They closed the schools. Hrumph said the parents! They closed some roads. Hrumph said the parents! They even closed the government down. Hrumph! Hrumph! Hrumph!
But Rachel wasn’t saying “hrumph!” She was yelling “hurray!” And doing her “snow day dance”. You see, one of Rachel’s favourite things in the entire world is to go out and play in the snow. And her favourite way to play, is to go sledding.
“Please daddy, please take us sledding,” she and her brother said. And their dad, who happens to be an awfully nice daddy, said, “Sure, why not?” He even called up and arranged for one of their friends to meet them.
Now, when it comes to sledding you really only need three things. Snow, of course. Then you need a sled. Rachel has a sensational sled. And, of course, you need a good hill. It turns out the perfect sledding hill is a short drive from Rachel’s house.
Rachel’s dad got all the snow off the windows of his 4x4. He dug the snow out from his driveway. He even dug a trail on the path from the house to the car. And by the time he had done all of that, it was time to go.
There are two ways to ride a sled. You can put your feet out in front and sit up. It's a very sensible way. Or you can lay down with your head first and your face only inches above the snow as it rushes by underneath you. It’s a very fun way. Rachel, of course, chose the fun way.
Down she sped. It seemed like she was going 100 miles per hour. The snow flew by her face, her heart pounded, she hit a bump and the sled felt like it might flip over! And at the end of it all, she jumped off her sled and yelled, “Let’s do it again!”
It was on her third run down the hill, however, that things took a startling turn.
The perfect sledding hill overlooks a lovely little lake, which in summer is perfect for sailing toy boats and even wading. But in winter it gets very cold. In fact, on this day, it was so cold it was frozen over.
So why not go ice-skating on it? You see, where Rachel lives it gets cold enough to freeze water, but not cold enough to freeze it deep enough to make it safe to skate on. If you tried skating, you’d soon fall through the ice. And into that terribly cold water underneath. And if you fell a little way down, you might find it hard to find the hole you fell through to come up. And even if you did manage to get back to the hole, it is very hard to get out of icy holes because the thin icy edges tend to break when you try to climb back up. And they are slippery as slippery can be. And even if you do get out, the water is so, so cold that if you don’t get to the hospital very quick smart . . . well, I don’t want to say, but it isn’t good.
So every boy and girl knows this—even when a lake is covered in ice, don’t you dare go walking on it. No. No. No.
I tell you all of this, because you need to know it to understand what happened next.
Rachel got to the top of the hill. She lay face first on her beautiful sled. She yelled, “Bombs away!”, and shot off down the hill.
Just like the last time. And the time before. It was brilliant fun. The snow, the wind, the bumps!
But this time, something was just a little different. The sled slid ever so slightly to the right. And that put the sled on a slightly different trajectory. It caught just the wrong bump which flicked it a little more to the right. And that sent it shooting over the edge of a very sharp slope. And then. Oh no! The sled was shooting straight towards the lake.
Rachel wanted to jump off, but before she could even think, the sled flew over the edge and onto the thin lake ice.
She screamed, “Help me, Daddy, help me!” Her daddy was running in the snow as fast as he could. But the sled was moving far too fast.
The sled hit the ice with a terrible thud. But its rails didn’t break it. The sled kept rushing on. Further and further out into the middle of the lake.
Rachel’s dad was terrified. At any moment the ice might give way and his precious little girl could fall through into that freezing water. And if she did, what could he do? He would rush out on the ice, of course. But then he would fall through the ice himself. Maybe far away from his little girl. And then what?
He called out to God in his heart, “Please save my precious little girl!”
The sled kept speeding along on the ice.
It didn’t stop. It kept going. And going. And going.
And Rachel’s dad kept praying and praying and praying.
Until the sled ran right up on the shore of an ice covered island in the middle of the lake.
Rachel got off the sled. Her dad was shaking with fear. But not Rachel. She gave a big smile and waved. She felt good to be on solid land.
But then she realised she had a problem. You see, there was a large sheet of thin ice between her and her dad. And she did not want to go out on that ice again. She knew exactly how dangerous it was. How on earth could she traverse that enormous gulf between them?
It turned out that the friends Rachel’s dad brought sledding with him were Russian. And if there’s one thing Russians know a lot about, it’s snow and ice. It wasn’t long until the Russian dad set up a rope between the island and the shore. Then he did about the hardest thing any dad can do. He sent his little boy, Martin, over to the island to get Rachel and bring her back.
The ice creaked. The wind blew. But the little boy didn’t flinch. He was on a mission, and he would not be diverted.
For what seemed an eternity, Martin and Rachel inched their way back from ice island using the rope.
Eventually, they arrived on the snowy banks of the lake. Rachel’s dad grabbed her off the ice and hugged her closer and harder than he ever had. “Dad!” cried Rachel, “that’s too tight!” But her daddy wasn’t listening. He was too busy thanking God for protecting his precious little girl.
When I heard the story that night as we sat around the fire at Rachel’s home, it made me think of another story I know. You see, I know a Daddy who was willing to let His Son come across very dangerous territory to save me when I was marooned on an island without any hope.
Can you think of who that Daddy might be? Do you know the name of His Son?
James Standish is editor of Adventist Record.