Facing into the wind, fingers numbed from the cold, back and arms aching from the struggle, we inched our way across the lake!

Of the 600 lakes with their interconnecting portages spread over the 1,180,000 acres of parkland just north of Lake Superior, why had we started out on Saganac Lake, one of the largest of them all?!

What in the world had we gotten into? Why were we even here, the two of us, father and son, fighting our way across this vast lake into the face of the north wind that was bringing fall to the Quetico?

A father and son trip had seemed attractive from the comforts of home. Yes, it was a coming-of-age trip as Tony turned 12. What a wonderful idea! 

Let’s head into the wilderness to face our fears, challenge our physical limits, and grow boys into men! It sure made sense on paper.

But this was no longer paper! This beautiful wilderness was trying to blow us backward, fill our canoe with water, and send us to its icy depths. 

On a lake 11 miles long, 4 miles wide, and 220 feet deep, we were a speck lost amidst the whitecaps. School was in session, and we had no choice but to be attentive pupils. 

To capsize here with no help in sight? Definitely not a good thought! To lose focus, let a wave catch us, roll us, dump us? That was a reality we had to avoid. No spot to rest, no chair to sit on, no way to take a breather; we simply had to find a way.

After two hard hours of physical exertion, no break in stroke, and no faltering of rhythm, we finally reached the far shore. Sheltered now from the wind, we caught our breath and looked back at the water we had crossed. 

Our eyes caught each other’s. A smile grew on our faces. With confidence now, we paddled on.

Five nights and six days of water, water everywhere, no shortage of drops to drink! Just the two of us in the wild. Only the dripping of water from our paddles to break the silence.

Each day was filled with challenges of its own: Nasty portages that drained our strength, explosions of lightning and thunder that lit up our tent at night, illuminating each solitary pine needle that lay on its floor with all the clarity of high-definition TV.

We huddled together in the rain, felt the sun beat on our backs, rubbed each other’s aching muscles at night, and pitched camp every evening only to strike it again the next morning. 

A common goal, a shared experience, and similar needs drew us together as partners without a word needing to be spoken. Our feelings, unhindered by the filters of role or age, became easier to see, to share, to understand.

Our conversations, unimpeded by appointments, work, or play, gave flow to a deeper discovery of each other. I had seen my son daily for 12 years but now in a matter of days a vision was starting to emerge of the man he was becoming.

Blue sky above, blue water below, and trees of green on either shoreline as we paddled past. Alone together, just Tony and I, a bear, some moose, a few otters, and a half dozen bald eagles. 

Just the two of us paddling together in the vastness of the Canadian wilderness. Father and son, alone with each other, each of us coming of age in the Quetico.

In the same way, Jesus called his disciples. They walked the dusty roads of Judea, challenged by scribes, Pharisees, zealots and Romans. They were often hungry, thirsty, and in fear for their lives. At the same time, they saw miracles performed, hungry crowds fed, and skeptics disarmed.

They knew the exhilaration of Jesus being welcomed into Jerusalem as a king, followed by intense disappointment and despair as He was taken captive in the garden, judged worthy of death, and hung on a cross to die.

But each part of their walk with Jesus, both the agony and the ecstasy, was necessary to grow them into the men God would use to overthrow the paganism of their day and bring the gospel of Christ to every home and hamlet.

Call to Action

On this Father’s Day, may we celebrate the men who have formed and inspired us. May we also accept and embrace the discipleship God gifts to us as we strive to “come of age” in His love and through His grace.

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