“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
By: Dana Baran
I came to the realization at the beginning of this summer that I was beginning to lose my sense of adventure, that I was letting motherhood overshadow my desire to try new things and take risks. It took the challenge of climbing out of the boat and onto a small inflatable tube to reignite my passion for adventure (for the full story click here).
My next adventure also came on the water, but this time the challenge was trying to stay in the boat as we navigated a narrow, rocky stream down some world class rapids in Idaho Springs, Colorado. My husband and I left Little Britches with her grandparents and drove off in search of Liquid Descent (yes, this is the actual name of the rafting company we chose). We had a perfect day for it, with temps in the low 80s (practically a heat wave in the CO altitude) and only a slight chance of rain (in the weeks before our trip they had had an unseasonable amount of rainfall, so we were thankful for dry weather!) Despite the warm temps (and our guide’s obvious disdain) we went ahead and donned wetsuits, because no matter how warm the air is snow-melt creek water is C-O-L-D!A short bus ride later we found ourselves sitting in our raft, getting a very quick lesson in paddling (we learned two strokes, forward and back). Our guide cheerfully informed us that we had about two hundred feet to practice before we hit our first class four rapid. Well that got our heart rates up in a hurry! There were six of us in the boat besides our guide, and we had barely figured out how to paddle in unison before we hit the first drop. It looked like we were going down a mini-waterfall, but it felt more like a slide. We got a nice big splash at the bottom and everyone tasted some creek water, but we had survived! A couple of people in the boat behind us weren’t so lucky. We pulled over to the bank while they fished the “swimmers” out, then took off again (we later learned that a daughter had knocked her father in, then lost her balance and followed him). We hit several more class three and four rapids with fanciful names like “the devil’s elbow” and “Satan’s corkscrew” before pulling over for a “swim break.” Most of us decided hey, what the heck, we might as well get the full experience. Our guide led us back down the bank a ways and then onto a flat rock. We were told to jump in to a spot the expert pointed to, then turn around and float head first on our backs down the creek. So, like a line of lemmings we jumped. When my turn came I found the drop to be somewhat higher than I had anticipated, and wondered why I couldn’t catch my breath. Then I realized the water was so cold I was on the verge of hyperventilation. A mercifully brief time later I heard the calls of the other guides and as instructed I dutifully flipped over and started to “do my best Michael Phelps” and head towards shore. We were given the chance to jump in again, but I gracefully declined. We had a truly fantastic experience, though it was way too short. 🙂 I actually found it to be less intense than my ride on the tube behind the ski boat, probably because we weren’t going quite as fast. 🙂 The only truly terrifying moment came when our guide pulled over to the side of the bank to let the other boats catch up right before we hit another big rapid. He hopped out of the boat and went to grab the OS (outside line for you landlubbers :)) but he missed it! Suddenly we found ourselves floating down the creek without a guide, headed right for some rocks, tree branches, and a class four waterfall! Thankfully our guide took a few flying leaps and caught the boat before we could lose our minds completely, reassuring us that he would never let us go without him.
And this leads me to the point of this long reminiscence. The only reason our whitewater rafting trip was exhilarating rather than terrifying was that we had an expert guide giving us directions and steering the boat the whole time. It struck me in profound way how that short trip down a whitewater creek had a multitude of strong parallels to life, and the Christian life especially. We are all in a “boat,” (hence the well-worn cliche) headed down rapids that appear very unexpectedly in front of us, trying to dodge boulders and keep from getting hung up in the trees and shallow water on either side of the creek. We are all at risk for falling out of the boat, or knocking someone else out (as what happened with our unfortunate comrades). The difference is as Christians we have an expert guide behind us, giving us directions and steering our course. All we have to do is paddle, to move forward. Becoming a Christian doesn’t automatically transfer you to a luxury cruise liner, it just gives you a Guide to navigate the rapids for you. During our trip our guide would often steer us right for a boulder, but at such an angle that when we hit we just bounced off and had actually corrected our course (I’m pretty sure I’ve heard several sermons preached on this principle). In life our troubles often come when we try to steer the boat ourselves, to take back control from the One who knows the “creek” like the back of His hand (because He created it). It would have been crazy for one of us, first timers every one, to try to steer. No, we were very happy with leaving that to our guide. Yet how often every day do I act (and even believe) that I’ve got it all figured out. Of course life is much more complicated than this simple metaphor, and we don’t have the luxury of an audible voice calling “left, forward, back one!” in our ears (that’s where faith and the Scriptures come in) but I think the lesson is still there. Leave the steering up to our Heavenly Father, enjoy the ride, and try not to fall out of the boat (though we can trust in Him to rescue us as needed!).