Have you ever rushed down a raging river with white water surrounding you on all sides and crashing down on top of you and reaching out from below to pull you in and destroy you? I have, on the Kern River in Southern California.
But that’s nothing compared to the rapids of life that so many of us careen through, often with little or no control over the outcome.
I remember the confidence of the river guide as he instructed us on how to approach the rapids, how to anchor ourselves onto the little rubber thing called the raft that we all sit in. How to use the raging water itself to set us more firmly into the boat. How to survive when we find ourselves tumbling out of our fragile boat into the raging turmoil all around us.
I remember the false confidence as we entered the boat in the calm eddy upstream from the chaos beyond.
I remember the false bravado as we slipped into the main channel to feel the surge.
I remember the excitement mixed with fear as the first set of rapids drew us in.
I remember diligently following the guides instruction as I reach out with my paddle and dig into the wave with all my strength while pressing hard against the boat with both feet and my butt, wishing I could grasp all that rubber and safety with the crack of my but.
I remember the furious struggle against the waves and the uphill fight against that which sought to destroy me.
I remember the victory as we crested the top of the rapids still intact, still within the safety of the raft, confident and proud of our victory.
I remember the short lived victory as I peered forward and down into the next set of rapids, and the repeated struggle yet another time.
I remember victory yet again, though not with the same aura of jubilation as before, but with fatigue from a desperate battle just to get through.
I remember once again, looking ahead and downstream at yet another set of troubles; troubles I was too tired to deal with but knowing I had no choice if I was to survive the journey.
I remember my half hearted but well intentioned struggle against the latest body slams that rose all around me as I once again fought for survival.
I remember that brief instant when I relaxed for just an instant and gave up the fight; it was so hard and I needed just a little rest.
I remember in that instant when that latest trouble reached up and slammed me across the front of the boat.
I remember flying from the boat taking a companion with me as we both entered the churning ferociousness of my troubles.
I remember as I found myself floating through the calm that was just below all of those troubles that had just racked my body, and the comfort and support I felt from that same river that had just tried to destroy me.
I remember my friends, and that faithful River Guide as they reached out to me and pulled me back into the safety of the raft.
I also remember the peace in that calm stretch before the next set of troubles. A peaceful pace with gentle waters lapping the edges of the shore, rocks along the way, and the soothing sounds against the side of the boat.
I also remember looking down the course of the river as it meandered peacefully from one curve to another with the trees unfolding before us in their colorful splendor.
I also remember the majestic canyon walls and the mountains beyond reminding me of the beauty and majesty of this planet I call home.
I also remember the friendship and fellowship gained that day with new and old friends, and of course, our faithful and in-control River Guide.
We made it through that day as I have made it through the rivers of my life thus far, and I am ever grateful for the river, the rapids, and of course that River Guide.
Life can be a lot like the Kern … only a lot scarier at times.
First of all we have no choice but to enter the river of life; we can’t retreat back up the canyon trail to the safety of the camp. We are in it for the duration and can’t start over.
We may find our self in the raft alone with no instruction on what to do; no guide to take us through the rough parts in a canyon not of our own choosing, a canyon with no end in sight and darkness closing in from the canyon walls.
But there is a faithful and in-control guide. No matter where you are on that river, the guide is there for you. A guide to help you through those raging waters and to show you the wonders in the still places. Perhaps you’ve never seen him there before in the back of the boat; perhaps you threw him overboard upstream some place; perhaps you were distracted as He gave you instruction along the way. No matter, He was there all the way.
Your Guide knows the river. He knows every turn and eddy. He knows all of the crashing waves by name.
Your guide has been down that river and has been beaten down by it. He has been tossed out of the boat and has been abandoned by his companions just when He needed them most. But through it all He remains in the boat and in control.
Your guide knows the river; He created it in all of it’s awesome splendor and terror.
Your guide will not change the course of the river nor the intensity of the rapids, but He does know the end and He knows how to get you there in safety. Seek Him while He may be found.
Don Johnson – May 2012
I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Psalm 34
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23