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Rough Waters

Psalm 69:14 May I be delivered from my foes and from the deep waters.

This past week I was able to take a short trip down to West Virginia to visit my brother. It had been some time since I was down there, and it seemed like just the thing the doctor ordered after a completing a grueling four courses in my master’s degree program.

My brother lives close to the New River Gorge, which is now a national park, so it is obligatory to take a drive down along the New River as well as visit some of the close state parks. One of the most popular things to do there of course is to take a rafting trip down the New River. In fact, in the early 1990’s I did just that with a group from my church. We loaded up a couple of vans, stayed overnight in Beckley, then the next day took a day trip down the New River. I can’t remember exactly where we began our trip, or where we ended it. But I do remember going under the Rt. 19 bridge which is the longest steel arch bridge in the western hemisphere.

One of the interesting things I learned on my trip many years ago is that the rapids encountered on a rafting trip are categorized according to difficulty and the dangers each one presents to the rafter or kayaker. Class I rapids are listed as Easy, the water may be fast moving but there are no real dangers. Class II is the Novice class, here the water is much rougher and there may be some obstructions under the water that post minor risks to swimmers and paddlers. Class III ups the ante a bit with irregular waves, strong eddies and currents, and should be scouted ahead for the best possible route through them. Class IV is the Advanced Class. These rapids are very intense and require a great deal of skill to maneuver around the obstructions. Class V goes even further with extreme risk to paddlers and rafters. Routes are very demanding, and the risk of injury and drowning is high. Finally, Class VI is the extreme category. These should not be attempted by anyone who is not at the expert level.

Another interesting thing I found out that trip is that each of the guides in the rafts are specially trained to handle the challenges of the trip. Each one goes through lifeguard training, safety management, and is expected to have an intimate knowledge of each of the rapids encountered along the trip. These are not college students working a summer job, rather they are highly trained and knowledgeable professionals. They are responsible for the safety of everyone in the raft and take their job very seriously.

As I took in the sights this time on my trip, it struck me how much life is like a whitewater rafting trip. Standing on the rim of the gorge it is easy to see how the river makes its way along. There are many stretches of smooth water, but as the water descends the gorge there are many places where the water is not so smooth. Here one encounters rapids where the water is constricted, obstructions are in the river, and strong currents and eddies exist. It is a lot easier to see them from above than it is to see them when one is on the river, so having someone with an intimate knowledge of the river is invaluable.

As I pondered this, it struck me how there are many seasons in our life where the water is smooth. There is little, if any, bumps. I remember many of my younger years where everything seemed to be going smoothly along. I had a good job, Donna and I had a wonderful life together, and any thought of problems seemed distant.

Then we encountered some rapids. There was our first Class IV rapid when Donna had a seizure in 1987 that forced her to go on permanent disability. I remember many moments at that time wondering if Donna would live. Does she have a brain tumor? Is there some other form of cancer? What is going on? But as I look back many years later, I see that the Guide in our raft, the Lord Jesus Christ himself, skillfully guided us around the obstructions, eddies, and swift currents into smoother waters.

The next major rapid we encountered was the Class III rapid when Donna’s father passed away in 2002. Again, our Guide skillfully steered our raft through the rough waters, but this time the smoother waters didn’t last too long as in 2007 another class III rapid hit with the loss of Donna’s brother.

Life now began to give us a series of smaller rapids. It seems as we got older more and more rough waters came our way. But through them all, our Guide was in the back of the boat skillfully maneuvering us through each of the rapids always assuring us we were safe in His care.

Then the Class V rapid hit us in 2017 when we learned Donna had terminal liver cancer. I remember the roar of the waters as we navigated past the many obstacles and dangers. Many times, we seemed to be at the mercy of the rushing waters around us, but whenever we would look to the back of our raft, our Guide was there with a calmness that told us everything was going to be all right. He skillfully guided us around the submerged rocks, through the rushing waters, and once again into some smoother currents. But this time, the raft had one less person. Donna was let off the raft as her journey was complete and I was left alone as my journey had not yet ended.

Since that time, I have been through many more rapids. They seem to be coming faster and faster with the smooth waters becoming shorter and shorter. First, I lost my brother-in-law, then sister-in-law, then mother-in-law. My parents have had to move into a nursing home, and in the distance, I hear some more Class V rapids as my parents are nearing the end of their earthly life. And these are just the rapids I know of, there may be many more I encounter in my journey yet.

But one thing I do know. I have an expert river Guide in the back of my raft skillfully maneuvering it through whatever the river of life may throw at me. He knows the way to take through the rough waters, and He has the skill to bring me safely to shore someday. I do not know how many more bends in the river, and rapids I will encounter, but I know my Guide will be able to keep me safe until the end of the journey when I step out of the raft of this life on to a heavenly shore.

But just think of stepping on shore

And finding it heaven

Of touching a hand

And finding it God’s

Of breathing new air

And finding it celestial

Of waking up in glory

And finding it home.

(Don Wyrtzen - Finally Home)

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kitty leung
kitty leung
Jul 18, 2022

Yes, thank God that His Word and Spirit are perfectly sufficient to guide us through this life!

BTW-for some reason, links in email still not directly getting me to the articles on your blog!


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