It was the “three hour tour” without Gilligan and Skipper. I’d never been kayaking before but after 10 minutes of sitting in one, my egotistical, self-confident, used-to-be-athletic self, was rehearsing the drill of escape once it tipped over. Our guide’s last words, as I paddled away spasmodically from the pier were “Shannon, yours rolls a little more than the others.” It took one swat at a bee to confirm that fact.
Since my husband took our little girl in a double kayak, I now doubted everything about his superhero status in the family. I was certain he was going to tip over and drown our kid. Images of the trauma so haunted me that I pulled out my phone (waterproof case) and texted my friend for prayer. I was ashamed of my fear but couldn’t shake it. Shaking meant tipping over.
Our small crew of 12 disciples awkwardly mimicked “Follow the Leader” and paddled around a few islands, a few seals, and up the beautiful Bagaduce River. When we finally scooted the kayaks ashore at the local rest stop (a small beach and trees), we refueled with granola bars and water. Due to intense focus on my treasures in the double kayak, incorrect paddling techniques had completely depleted my Olive Oyl arm strength while my lower back decided to revolt by moving and pinching neighboring nerves that shot down my legs. Despite a forced smile to new comrades, I fell sideways getting out of my kayak and stood as gracefully as the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz after being cut down from his post. A rest could not have come at a more perfect time. The Lord knew.
“Now going back is going to be a little different.” The guide’s words snapped my head around. “The wind has picked up and we’re going to be paddling against the current when we make our final stretch home. We are going to have to point the kayak at a landmark and paddle in a direction upstream but it will carry us straight back to the docks.” Great. Contrary winds on top and disagreeable current below. Sounded like a familiar scenario for a different set of disciples.
Fast forwarding to the crossing of the bay…we all divided into groups so no one was left alone. Then we pointed our kayaks to a point far upstream from where we wanted to land and headed out. The winds were now whipping up little foam whitecaps, boats were sending out rumble strips we had to navigate, and stopping our rowing was not an option as the current would carry us far downstream. My husband told his excited non-rower to put her head down on the boat to help with the wind resistance and I developed whiplash constantly watching them as I tried to paddle towards our distant focal point. But just when I had not a drip left of strength (since I never mastered paddling technique), the current changed and pulled us all straight into our port.
Today, though I sit at my kitchen table, I feel like I’m back in that water spiritually amidst many disciples and treasures in other kayaks within my gaze. All of us following the Holy Spirit as Guide, listening to His instruction while rowing through our days, paddling against enemy winds and fierce undercurrents trying to force us off course. We are to always stay focused on the Lord Jesus, our landmark and lighthouse. At one point, right in the middle of the bay, I agonized watching my husband battle to make progress in a vessel much harder to navigate than my own. The guide must have seen my concern as she said to me, “Don’t worry. If they can’t make it, I’ll pull up to his boat, anchor him to myself and pull him in. But they’ll make it.”I breathed.
Are these not the same words and heart that Jesus has for us in our final push towards heaven? Just stayed focused – “fixing our eyes on Jesus” Hebrews 12:2. Don’t leave the group – “continued steadfastly in…doctrine and fellowship” Acts 2:42. Keep paddling forward – “but I press on…reaching forward” Philippians 3:12, 14. Then trust that when you have no strength, you have a Rescuer. A Deliverer. A Savior Who gave His life for your life. He’s a Life preserver…forever. “…rescue me and deliver me; turn your ear to me and save me” Psalm 71:2. He will. Again and again.