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Three Things White-Water Taught Me About Faith

This year I was fortunate enough to partake my first white-water rafting experience in Idaho on a vessel called the Creature Craft. Being possibly the first Australian to ride this Rapid-munching beast they call a raft was both terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time! For those who haven’t heard of the creature craft before, it is an inflatable craft designed to handle rapids that white-water amateurs can only dream of taking on. Look them up on YouTube to gain a better appreciation.

In Idaho we took on the North Fork of the Payette—a category five set of rapids. For those like me who know (or knew!) nothing about rafting, the only people who will take on category fives are professionals and lunatics; I prefer to think of them as one in the same. Nonetheless, I partook in the lunacy and made some crazy memories I won’t soon forget.

Now you might still be wondering how this all came together, and to be honest so am I. However, that’s not the point here. It’s amazing how much perspective you get when you realize your own powerlessness. I have had a few weeks to calm down and reflect on the experience and have found that in the lunacy, I learned some lessons about faith.

Prior to being sent down the current of doom, I had to go through a fairly rigorous safety training progress which lasted all of 20 minutes. The goal of the training was to prepare myself and my navigator to learn how to work together to flip the boat upright should we tip while on the rapids. For us, this process was made all the more difficult by having the largest boat in the fleet and perhaps the most inexperienced crew. Furthermore, we were to complete the task in an eddy (a patch of still water), making the task considerably harder than if we were moving down some white-water.

Although this exercise can by no means be considered mundane, embarrassingly, it took my crew much longer than it should have. One of the professional rafters whispered to us part way through our pain that it was a lot easier to flip the boat when being carried downstream. Finally, we completed our task and the pressure we felt from the onlooker’s eyes—which were at this point tearing up with laughter—was released. That was until we were flipped the other way and told to complete the task again! Eventually we got the boat back upright and our training was complete. Little did I know the pain to come over the next few days would make me question if the whole thing was worth it. Nonetheless, I learned something important about faith here: we were drastically over-prepared for the rapids.

1 Corinthians 10:13 is a pretty powerful verse attesting to the struggles we will face in life. My understanding of the principle on display here is that God always equips us where He calls us. The only prerequisite for serving God is a desire to do His will and a willingness to allow His Spirit to work in and through you. Without a willingness to learn, you become very hard to teach. God never allows us to go into a place He has not already prepared us. However, God also respects the decision of those who choose to ignore his instruction and experience the consequences of their actions.

2) Stationary is Dangerous

One of the first things I learned about rafting is that the surest way to end up falling flat on your face is to try and stand still. Moments before my first run down the North Fork Payette, one of the professionals asked me about my white-water experience. I proceeded to tell him that this was my first time and he spent the remainder of our wait laughing.

Yet in his sympathy, he gave me some advice just before we launched. He said that if I were to fall out of the boat, my best chance of surviving would be in adopting a defensive position and allowing myself to be carried downstream. Trying to stand up in the water is one mistake new rafters tend to make when they fall out. Because of hydro-physics (or whatever it’s called), the moment they plant their feet on the river bed is the moment they fall forward and start flowing headfirst down the rapid.

I am not proposing that we should exercise our faith without caution. However, I do believe that comfort and faith can’t co-exist. The posture of the heart must remain intentionally focused upon God’s calling for us in each season. Also we must be willing to keep moving forward despite any discomfort. The reality is that some seasons feel like life is smashing you from all directions. Just as the key to surviving a rapid is intentionally adopting the right posture and moving forward, we need to be intentional about adopting a posture of submission as we move forward towards God’s purpose for our life. The moment we dig in our heels is often the moment we stumble; when we are not working in God’s purpose we are prone to falling. Keep moving forward!

3) The Power of Preparation

I’m not afraid to admit how tired I was after the training that I mentioned earlier. The problem is, no training can truly prepare you for what it feels like the first time you go down the rapid. Initially, I deemed the excessive training unnecessary beforehand. However, my first run made me realize that no amount of training can prepare you for the real thing. It’s not until you’re staring down the mouth of a hole (rafter terminology) big enough to swallow an SUV that you begin to realize why you needed the training.

It’s really easy to get frustrated with seasons that seem to have no action. Often we compare our walk with the next guy, and in seeing their pious facade, we realize that we don’t measure up. We think that God must have more in store for us but fail to see how our presently ‘mediocre’ existence has anything to do with the extraordinary things to come. We fail to understand two things. Firstly, the season we are in cannot be defined until it is finished. Secondly, God has you in this season for a purpose. A preacher once said to me, if you knew what God had in store for your life, you would understand the magnitude of your current situation. By appreciating and paying attention to the preparation, you learn to appreciate and enjoy the challenges that follow.

Let’s make a commitment to live in the now with a posture of expectancy. Let us learn from God in preparation for the future that He has in store.


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