Saturday, July 15th, 2017:
My dad and I got up early, made sure the kayaks were fastened safely to the trailer, got snacks and drinks, and made our way to the river. Usually, we go down Saluda River, a territory I am quite familiar with because I’ve traversed it a few times. Saturday however, we went further up north to Green River, waters that my dad, his brother, and his friend have been exposed to but none that I had encountered yet.
“There are going to be a lot more rapids,” my dad warned.
“Are we definitely going to get wet?” I asked.
“Oh, yeah. You’re probably going to get soaked.”
Fearing nothing, I got inside the kayak. It was a matter of milliseconds and the current was already carrying me away. I thought about how nice it was that I’d be able to enjoy this ride rather than work myself to death to make the trek. I even grew too proud and told myself I wasn’t going to get wet if it was the last thing I did.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. I was so wrong.
Not ten minutes into our escapade, I had already spun a few times, water soaking my shorts. My dad exclaimed that it was moving quicker than the last time he went down this same river not even two weeks ago. There were dozens of inner-tubers as well which made for an interesting dodging aspect on our part.
Along the Green River, there are a few “forks in the road” — left or right. One can’t quite tell which direction will be more difficult until he gets right up on it to glance further downstream. Fortunately for me, I had three people leading me who knew exactly which sides to take. I had to bank on their instincts and watch their every move, listening carefully to their instructions.
“Go right and then all the way to the right. There are rocks on the left and some people in tubes down the middle.” I watched closely at how my leaders angled their kayaks and leaned into the rapids. I mimicked as best as I could, my kayak bouncing on the waves.
“Okay, this time, we’re going to go left, but there’s a tree. So stay closest to the right on the left.”
I immediately began paddling toward the left, a long branch coming into view that stretched out over the water, leaving, of course, a tiny gap for us on the right. No sooner had I spotted the branch, I was heading directly for it. I didn’t have much time to act or think, and I collided into it, almost being pierced by its smaller neighboring companion. Next came an inner-tuber who clashed with me. We were stuck.
My uncle turned his kayak around, grasping along the tree and reaching for my hand. I grabbed onto him, lending the end of my paddle to the gentleman who had had the same fate as I did. My dad came around behind us to push as my uncle pulled. A minute or two later, we managed to swing ourselves around to the other side and persist.
I continued to heed the advice of the men in front of me. “Rock on the left.” “Two rocks on the right.” “Go straight down the middle.” There had been a handful of forks but a mostly wide-open river. And then the water changed.
From flowing to downright racing, the water grew into a beast. I had imitated my three leaders the whole way so far, but, this time, it didn’t work in my favor. Another tree. Another moment of lost control. My kayak went sideways, ramming into it.
Water started rushing into the boat, and I tipped even more. The weight of the water began crushing the kayak, wrapping it around the tree. I managed to slip out so as not to be swallowed by the undertow, but I could hardly stand.
“Dad!” I screamed through tears that pooled in my eyes. He had found a mini embankment about thirty to forty feet ahead and had whipped around while my uncle jerked his kayak to a stop to look for me. Not only was I upstream, but a mound of rocks separated us, too.
A man went by, and, upon hearing the commotion, fought to come to my aid. He dragged me into a standing position and broke the kayak free, allowing it to float away. To my dismay, the same man that had previously run into me was now barreling toward me for a second time.
I thought I was going to die. Yes, you read that right. Die. I panicked. I cried, and I silently prayed. Even though a little voice told me I’d be okay, I wasn’t sure exactly how it would all end up.
Out of the inner-tube he flew, the water cascading over him. He was shoved forward, but he managed to roll onto his back. That was all he could manage as the water relentlessly splashed into his face. He was going to drown. I turned to the other man beside me and yelled for him to get the drowning inner-tuber.
I was scared to death for my own life, but I at least had the tree keeping me balanced. The hero, as I will call him, snatched the inner-tuber out of the clutches of death, made sure he was seated back in his inner-tube safely, and then returned his attention to me.
Meanwhile, my uncle was treading the rocks and water cautiously, reaching out his hands. I braced myself against his arms, gingerly matching his designated steps. I slipped. My leg went flying out from under me, and I got hooked on a rock. My toes scraped against it as I yanked my foot free.
I fumbled but found solidity. My whole body was chilled to the bone. Pushing forward, I managed to plant my feet on a large rock above my dad’s sit-on kayak (he had gone to acquire mine which had been graciously fished out of the river on the other side).
I hesitated. My mind was zooming, my heart was galloping, and my nerves were sizzling. I took a deep breath, got on, and made my way over to one of the exits which happened to be near my accident.
After my crew reunited and I refueled with crackers, my Dad asked if I was ready to “rock and roll.” I mulled it over, and I agreed to press on.
Now, Beautiful Readers, you may ask what made me want to finish. You may ask why I said yes. If you have any idea where I’m going with this whole story, then maybe you have already come across a similar message and the Lord is trying to tell you something by its repetition. If not, then bear with me because I want to share something more with you.
Throughout this whole entire trip, I heard the Lord clearly speak to my spirit.
I imagined the water was my destiny; if you know me well, you know that I’ve actually used rivers and oceans for that specific analogy. My leaders symbolized Jesus. Just as my leaders bore more knowledge, wisdom, and experience concerning the river because they had crossed it before, Jesus bears all of those things about my life.
If I wanted to have a successful journey on the water, I had to pay attention and obey. If I want to have a successful journey in life, I have to pay attention and obey. None of that, on the other hand, ever comes guaranteed without trial and tribulation.
So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world (1 Peter 1:6-7, NLT).
I imagined the forks in the river to be choices I have to make along the way or unforeseen matters that I have to hand over to God. I also imagined all the rocks (some of which I bumped into or scraped against) as obstacles I have to either avoid or overcome. When I hit the first tree, I thought about times I have fallen but brushed myself off. When I hit the second tree, I thought about events in my life that almost completely destroyed me.
You see, it’s not because I took my eyes off of the ones who were guiding me through the river and showing me where to step that I had those terrifying encounters with the water. It’s not because I take my eyes off the One who guides me through life and shows me where to step that I go through hardships, but it’s because God uses those moments of weakness, sorrow, pain, and struggle as tools to mold and shape me. He uses them to teach me lessons I might never learn otherwise; He uses them to strengthen my faith. If He bailed me out every time, how would I grow?
When I said yes to the rest of the trek, I knew I could and would make it to the finish line if I continued to trust those who cared for me. I thought about how I want to always say yes to God even when I get knocked down because I can trust Him; He cares for me. I was reminded that setbacks are simply setups because God never lets anything go to waste.
In fact, Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (NLT).
If I give up, I give in to fear, doubt, and discouragement, I give in to lies that I’m not able to accomplish what God has prepared for me, and I give in to lies that I’m a failure. Moreover, if I do take my eyes off Him, I give those lies room to grow and become my reality, leading me down a terrible, dark path. And I know I’m meant for more than that.
Trials and tribulations are not the end of us. God can turn them around in our favors if we keep returning back to Him and refuse to allow ourselves to get burned rather than refined. We know that we can trust Him forever, and as long as we can trust Him, we can also trust the journey, knowing that, in time, we will end up right where we want and need to be at the completion of it all.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on lifeofthebeautifullybroken.wordpress.com
Featured Image by Benjamin Davies
In-Text Image 1 by Jon Flobrant
In-Text Image 2 by Zbysiu Rodak