With more than forty-four years on the job, which kept me in an automobile much of the time, I have spent a lot of time on our Tennessee roads, and when that sort of time involves interstate driving, you find yourself quite often looking at the double doors of the rear end of an eighteen-wheeler. Over the years, I have found a lot of verbiage on these rolling billboards that was both entertaining and educational, plus some that make me want to pass just to get the verbiage out of my sight. You know the ones like, “I may be slow, but I’m ahead of you,” and “Your mama is so fat that blankety blank-blank-blank and unmentionable.” Those I don’t appreciate, and freedom of speech may be pushed to the limit.
One Monday, I saw one on the back of a Wright’s Farm hay and straw truck that really got my week started right. Across the back doors in large blue letters, the owners had placed this quote, “If you want to walk on water, you have got to get out of the boat.” That bit of inspiration stuck with me all that day and continues to make me think. Christ, in Matthew 14: 22-33, came to the aid of his disciples from the nearby shore where he had been praying during a storm, by walking on the water. If you remember, Peter was the only one who got out of the boat to meet him, but took his eye off Jesus and began to sink until he asked Jesus for help and Christ took his hand to save him. When they got in the boat the storm ceased. That is the way life is for us. When we take our eye off of what is important, we may begin to sink, but reaching out to Jesus in tough times and keeping him “in our boat” during the storms of life, those storms can be calmed. But you do have to get out of the boat every so often whether you want to or not.
Over the years, I have known people who quite often got out of the boat to help others and made walking on water look easy. My first encounter with such a person was my grandfather who farmed on the very farm that I live on today. He went off to war during WWI, ending up a messenger and bugler on the frontlines in France. There he moved among the troops getting shot at during the conflict in the Argonne Forest and had to spend six months waiting for the next ship to arrive to bring him home after the war was over.
He returned to his native Rutherford County where he farmed all his life until he left us at the age of 97. His favorite reading was U.S. News and World Report and politics always became the subject of discussion around the fireplace. I never knew if he was an R or a D because he usually took the opposite opinion of the person he was debating, just to keep the discussion going. His dog was named Ike, but he liked Harry Truman.
P.G. was a community leader if I had to describe him. When the school needed a gym, he donated the lumber. He helped bring electricity to our area, as well as got folks to put phones in their homes. If it involved community service, he thought you should be involved.
For more than 25 years, he served as the county squire in our area on the county’s quarterly court. That was today’s county commission and commissioners back then. I’ve been run out of the living room on several Sunday afternoons as a kid so he could marry some bashful young couple, which squires could do back then. They were true public servants back then.
I’ll never forget the opportunity I had to go and see him as he served on the court one time at the county courthouse. The crowd of people, the dark colored wooden desk, men in their Sunday best and MY grandfather leading the discussion as I watched from the balcony. It was a very impressive image for a small boy from out on the farm and rural countryside to see. An image that still remains in my thoughts today as a grandfather myself.
Guess that is why I decided this year to get out of the boat myself and run for county commissioner in the very same district that my grandfather did over 50 years ago. I’ve had a lot of people ask me why I’m getting into politics after retiring and supposedly having it made after all these years of working. I’ve even been called a little crazy for doing so. Maybe so”¦
The truth is one time I saw a man very special to me seem to “walk on water” and I want to do it too. He helped his community and gave back a lot of hope to some whose hope was all that they had. If I can just be half that good of a walker on water as he was, I think it will be worth my getting out of the boat.
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org