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
I know some people who say that they don’t need to go to church, because they can spend Sunday mornings outside in nature to worship God. This Sunday morning, I wasn’t exactly worshipping God. It was more like praying for my life. When I called to ask some questions about which whitewater trip would be appropriate for our family, the guide at told me that they had a 100% safety rating. That was in response to my concerns about getting my foot caught in a rock and drowning. “We’ve never lost anyone yet,” he said cheerfully. Knowing youngest son and M. would prefer more than just a float trip, I signed us up for the four hour river trip on class three and four rapids which was for all levels of experience, but restricted to people 12 and up. If a 12 year old can do it, I can, I thought. On Thursday, they called me and asked if we could change our trip date. “They are only opening the dam on Saturday and Sunday and we want you to have the best adventure so can you move to Sunday from Monday?” What if I don’t want them to open the dam, I wondered, but hesitantly agreed. I woke up this morning with a nervous stomach, but upon arrival at the company headquarters was relieved to really find a 12 year old on the trip. We drove down to the Green River and watched as they unloaded the inflatable kayaks. One for each of us. We had each been fitted with a life vest and a helmet and after a brief demonstration including the admonition that if we fell out of the boat we should point our feet downstream and with toes up, float along until the guide could bring our boat back to us and help us in. We each climbed into a kayak and off we went downstream in the rushing water. There were lots of rocks, but youngest son had given me some instruction on how to look for the places between the rocks so I was doing pretty well and my confidence growing when the guides motioned for us all to pull over into a calm area for more instruction. Ahead were our first real rapids. Not, just rushing water, but a “slide” down some rocks. From where we sat in our kayaks, it actually looked like the guide demonstrating the route just fell off the earth as he disappeared from view. Did I say that not only am I afraid of drowning, but falling? I watched one after another the rest of the group went forward and then, it was my turn. I said a few four letter words as I went over, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought and we continued downstream. The guides were great, shouting encouragement and advice. They helped to make it fun and a little easier. That’s how the morning progressed, some easier paddling in calmer areas, then, through rocks and fast moving water, a stop for instruction and then, another race over a falls or rock formation. It was exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. At one point, we had to get out of the kayaks and drag them over some rocks because that portion of the river was too dangerous for us to navigate. Everyone else was having a great time, but after three hours, I was regretting the decision to take the four hour trip as my arms were killing me. Then, in a place where we were to go right, I missed the turn and went left over some rushing rapids and out of the boat. Everything I had been taught left my mind as I scrambled to stand up. When I couldn’t touch the bottom, I remembered to float, but was headed downstream back first instead of feet first. I finally got turned around, but not before scrapping my knee, legs and hands up pretty bad. My wedding ring even took a beating. The guide helped me back in my boat, but if I could have stopped then, I would have. I had no strength left to continue on. My paddling got worse with fatigue, and I bounced from one bank to another. Then, I got caught under some low hanging tree branches and lost my paddle. Fortunately, I could stand up and was able to get back into the boat on my own, but I sat there hanging on to a tree branch, wishing I could finish the trip in a hurry. I got my wish as I lost my grip on the tree and shot out into the river with no paddle. I raced past the guide who had retrieved my paddle and was coming to help me. He hurried to catch up with me, grabbed my kayak, pulled me to shore and said, “Would you be opposed to letting me tie your kayak to mine? You look like you have had enough.” I agreed thankfully and while, the rest of the trip wasn’t a piece of cake, I still had to sit up and be watchful, I finished the journey following closely behind him as he expertly maneuvered both our kayaks through the rapids and safely to the place where we were to get out of the river. Was the river trip fun? Some parts. Would I do it again? No way! But, here’s what I learned in addition to the fact that some people are made for whitewater kayaking and some to sit on the porch and watch hummingbirds. It is important in any journey to have a guide. Someone who can advise you on what is ahead. Someone to applaud your achievements. And someone to tow you home when you can’t move one more inch. I was thankful for my whitewater guide today, but even more thankful that I always have God. Even when I am too frightened and worn to ask for help, He will carry me through.