I take comfort in being able to identify with people. I like knowing that I am not alone. For example, the other night while my roommates and I were watching the Olympics I randomly spoke up and asked, “When you moved into your first apartment and really broke ground for your independence, were you nervous? Were you anxious at all about how it would all work out and whether or not you really had what it took to do it?”
The looked at one another and smiled (they are both slightly older and therefore much wiser). With simple nods and loving explanations they recapped their first-time apartment experiences.
There is something about knowing that you are not the first one on the boat headed down a new river that is reassuring. You put in and push off into calm and fluid waters; gently flowing forward with soft ripples tenderly breaking the glassy surface. Yet, it is inevitable that rapids will come; turbulent waters will approach, especially when it rains and the waters rise. More than being afraid of the rapids, I tend to be afraid that I am and will be the only one to face those particular waters.
I have never been one for white water-rafting. I don’t get a thrill from putting myself in potentially dangerous situations. Ironically though, every time I have gone (and by that I mean, pressured to go), I always end up having a great time. I think there are several reasons for this.
For starters, there have always been eight to twelve other people that I know in the boat with me. So, if I end up going overboard, someone is going with me. Secondly, we have always had an experienced guide who had traversed that very river numerous times. He knows every nook and cranny of the waterway; where the placid and temperate areas are that are good for rest, the areas to avoid, and most importantly, he knows what rapids are coming up and when. He has plowed through them countless times and understands where and how to steer into them. That’s right; into them.
By steering dead ahead into a rapid, you will get shot through to the other side with little help or need from you own paddle. The strength and force of so much water will carry the boat, and its occupants, over the boulder(s), which create the rapids.
If you steer to the side though, chances are your boat will get caught in an undercurrent and you will get sucked into the rapid. It’s not a guarantee that you will flip, but it will take an enormous amount of power and team work from everyone in the boat to get the boat up and out of the crevice. Is it doable? Yes. It is difficult? Yes.
But the guide instructs, calling out commands and directions, telling the people on the right side of the boat to paddle one way and the people on the left side of the boat to paddle the other way.
I remember going down a river with class four rapids (they are measured on a scale of one to five; five being the biggest). Our guide would not tell us how many rapids we would face or when they were coming until they were nearly in sight. It was smart of his part because if I had known what I would be facing from the beginning, I would have jumped overboard and swam ashore.
I think it’s the same with God. If He showed us everything we would encounter along the way, we wouldn’t stick around to see how He would carry us through it. We wouldn’t enjoy the ride because we would be distracted with what laid ahead. We would not enjoy the quiet places; the parts of the river that are meant for swimming and picture-taking.
When turbulent waters do come though, He sits calmly in the back of the boat, steering and instructing us as to what we are supposed to do with our own paddles.
One thing about white-water rafting that is inevitable is getting wet. Outside of the mandatory splash fights, you will most likely get wet when you conquer the rapids. If I had to choose a part of the adventure that I enjoy most, that would be it. Getting splashed.
It is initially shockingly cold. But, on the back side of the rapid, when the water evens out and you can coast, it is so refreshing. As the trip goes on, it eventually evaporates, but not without relieving you from the heat of the sun. It serves a purpose. It renews and revives excitement. It energizes your spirit; it awakens your senses.
When you look back at what you went through, you can smile and breathe a sigh, not relief, but of belief. Belief that your guide, your God, was there, piloting your boat and your life. Never alarmed or overpowered, but in total and complete control. When you turn back around to face the front and gaze out on the water, rest assured that in the same way he steered your way through the previous rapids, He will continue to guide you in the future.
He has no reason to jump ship. He is neither afraid nor unaware of what’s to come. On the contrary, He has permitted the boulders to fall where they may and He plans on using the rough waters to mold and shape you, to strengthen you faith and forearms. The paddle He has equipped you with, His Word, will cut through any water and will propel you forward in the way you are to go.
As quickly as the rapids come, they pass. You are on the other side before you know it and you are one rapid experience stronger, more assured, and confident that you can handle the rest of the river. Not because you and your paddle saved the day, but because your guide knew where he was going and how to get there.
So grab your paddle, strap on your life-jacket, and jump in the boat. Get ready for the ride of a lifetime. And remember, you’re not alone.