For fun I threw my motorcycle into neutral and free-rolled down the long hill from our apartment in Penang, Malaysia. Coming to a stop at the intersection across from the local mosque, I waited. It’s a dangerous intersection. A hundred yards on my left is a tight blind curve and a hundred yards on my right is another tight blind curve. So I wait. I look right….then left….then right, left again and pull out.
It’s a blur, but a speeding red taxi has shot out of the blind curve on my right! Stunned that I’m suddenly ten feet from the front end of his taxi and shocked that he’s not trying to stop, by the time I hit my accelerator, he’s less than three feet from the broadside of my bike. With my back wheel spinning and smoking, my bike slides sideways and his speeding front bumper misses my leg and the side of my motorcycle by mere inches!!
Pulling over into the mosque parking lot, I stopped and looked back just in time to watch him round the next blind curve. Out loud I said, “Thank you, Lord Jesus, for protecting me again!!” So many times He has saved my hide! But what if He hadn’t saved me and if I had been smacked by the taxi and thrown through the air, hitting the ground rolling–ripping clothes, breaking bones, and coming to a stop in a puddle of my own blood? I saw it happen to a friend of mine when I was a kid . . . and the thought chilled me.
A couple weeks after the near-miss on my motorcycle, my wife and two daughters and I flew to Krabi, Thailand, for spring break. We both work at an international school in Malaysia. My daughter had gotten us an incredible coupon deal, so we were able to stay at a nice resort a few blocks from the ocean.
From the beach, the view is beautiful. In the clear blue waters there are solitary limestone peaks that are world-class attractions for rock climbers with their near vertical rock walls and the coral reefs at their base for divers. When I first saw the islands, they looked like giant multi-shaped rocks that were randomly placed around in the water. Some of them are huge and even have their own beaches.
In search of a closer look at these natural wonders, we tried to find a tour excursion, but all the island-hopping tours were booked, so we ended paying for a private, three-island hop. We had the boat all to ourselves; it was just us and the boatman. The boats that are used to shuttled tourists among the islands originated in Thailand and are called long-tail boats. They’re a heavy wooden boat about thirty feet long and can carry around twelve to fifteen passengers. They’re propelled by a car motor mounted on top of a swivel with a long shaft that sticks out about fifteen feet behind the boat with a propeller on the end, thus the name, long-tail boat. The propeller is connected directly to the driveshaft; with no other gearing, this simple design allows them to easily navigate their boats through shallow or deep water.
The first rock island we came to was for snorkeling. My wife was having trouble getting the hang of snorkeling in the waves, so I pushed her to some rocks at the base of the island and tried to steady her on a smooth rock. In the process, however, I got washed away and chopped up my leg on some barnacles. We got to see lots of fish though, as they followed the blood trail to my leg! I’m glad there weren’t any sharks around because as big as I am, they would smell the blood, see my size, and think, “Buffet!!”
The next island stop was to a much larger rock outcropping. Wondering what was so special about this island, I soon learned as we rounded the island away from the coastline. Our boatman took us through a long narrow rock corridor with high jagged walls that opened into a beautiful lagoon rimmed with green Mangrove trees. The lagoon was about the size of half a football field. Other long-tail boats were there, as were some kayakers in bright pink kayaks brought by a larger boat anchored outside the corridor.
The lagoon had a sandy bottom and was about shoulder deep on me. The high surrounding rock walls gave one the feeling of being in another world. Forty feet up from the water was a small cave overlooking the lagoon; I thought how fun it would be to camp overnight up there. Looking at the surrounding Mangroves, I wanted to snorkel to their base and see the flora and fauna that inhabited the area around their submerged roots. I also noted there were no boats among the Mangrove trees so decided that snorkeling in that area would be a safe thing to do.
Leaving our anchored long-tail boat, we all got out to swim. While my family stayed around the boat, I took off by myself for the Mangrove trees. Slowly gliding to the root base so as not to disturb the natural environment, I reached forward and steadied myself by holding onto two roots.
For the biologist that I am, this was awesome!! Staying motionless in the water, I felt so honored to enter into their world as I watched the schools of hundreds of inch-long silver fish with large eyes and light iridescent blue markings swim around, checking out my face and hands. “What is this huge ‘object’?” Then a small shrimp swimming by stopped on a root for a minute, stared at me, and then casually swam off. There were snails, small crabs, and different kinds of algae among the young Mangrove roots. I was completely captivated by this bio-circus of life in this part of God’s creation.
Then suddenly…WHAM!!..an unexpected smack ripped me out of their playground and slammed me down hard into the water!! A second later when my head popped out of the water, all I could see was a big wooden boat hull in my face. The next thing I knew someone grabbed the hair on my head and forcefully shoved my head back between two roots. Instantly the boat filled the tight gap between the two Mangrove trees as the long-tail boat skidded across my chest with the propeller chopping the water inches from my body.
The boatman kept going and didn’t seem to realize what had just happened! The man who had managed to shove my head out of the way and his wife were running to the back of their boat to see if I was okay. I looked behind me and saw my wife and two daughters looking frantic with fear. I checked myself for cuts and was amazed I didn’t have any broken bones!!
In the moments that followed, I realized if the guy hadn’t pushed my head back into the roots, I would have been forced under the boat in the shallow water by the forward momentum of the boat. Then, when I would have popped up after the boat had passed over me, I would have been in the gap between the back of the boat and the long shaft with the grinding propeller—my body getting chopped up like ground beef as it crossed over me.
“Lord Jesus,” I said, “thank you for sparing me again!!” I waved and assured my wife and daughters that I was okay and swam back to them. There was pure relief on their faces! Later I learned that one daughter saw the whole incident and yelled, “Poppy’s just been hit by a boat!” But they were too far away to be of any help.
I think by then the boatman that hit me finally realized what happened and took off! I still couldn’t figure out how the guy who grabbed my hair was able to reach me because it was a long distance between the top of the bow and the top of my head.
Later as I reflected on the boat-body-slam and my near motorcycle-mash-up, I thought, “What if I had not been saved? What if the all-knowing God in His infinite wisdom had a good reason for me to be hurt and suffer?
Would that change my trust in Him?
While there have certainly been times of confusion throughout my life, I have come to understand that no matter how I feel or what difficulty I’m going through, it does not change Who He Is.
He is Almighty God, a solid foundation—the One who can be trusted—in the good times as well as in the tough times.
I shall bless Lord Jehovah in all times,
and in all times shall his praises be in my mouth. –Psalm 34:1 (Aramaic Bible)
Copyright © 2012 by William D. (Nick) Nichols