When Life Feels Out of Control, Remember This
It was my idea. Something fun and different to do as a family. I’d done it once before, when I was nine-years-old, but it had completely creeped me out. I remember sitting in a tube in the murky water, certain something terrible was lurking below the surface waiting to pull me down to a watery grave. I still remember the way I arched my back just slightly so that my rear end wouldn’t sink too far into the center of the tube, and how I kept my feet high above the water so nothing could get them. I breathed shallow breaths and tensed my muscles, as if somehow being stiff and still would camouflage my existence from any hidden creatures below. I couldn’t wait for the ordeal to be over, and vowed to never do it again. But I was an adult now, and no longer afraid of imaginary river monsters.
Me, my husband, and three of our older children opted in for the adventure. We paid, and then loaded the bus which took us to the drop off point. I wasn’t the least bit nervous, that is, until the guide began to explain that the water was high this year, and fast, and that the only way we would be able to steer our tubes was with our hands, AND that we would have to paddle to the riverbank and get out of the tubes twice during the two-mile run so we didn’t hit the Bridges of Death. “We call them that for a reason,” she said emphatically. “So pay attention.” She then prattled off some confusing left-left-right directions for the first bridge and some right-left-right directions for the second bridge. I nervously tried to memorize the pattern so as to not be taken unawares and accidentally killed.
I felt my heart race a little. Two miles? I thought this was shorter! Bridges of death? Do I remember the pattern? Steer with my hands? How the heck were my hands supposed to reach the water from a reclined position in my tube anyway? I began to sweat.
We arrived at the drop off. There was no turning back now.
My oldest son was the first one in the water. He made it look so easy. I followed behind him. My breath cut short and my lungs suddenly refused to expand as the freezing water shocked my system. The force of the water was strong and pushed me forward so I quickly jumped up in my tube and was swept away.
I found myself alone in the artic-type waters, suddenly hyperventilating. I could no longer feel my behind! My son was already far ahead of me and the rest of my family had barely climbed into their tubes. My arms flailed about, too short to reach the water to steer, as I sped out of control on the rushing river. Unable to direct my course, I turned into that anxious nine-year-old from long ago, but instead of freezing with tension I was overcome by panic. How would I steer? How would I stop? I had no control. My tube began quickly veering toward the bank, intent on meeting a thicket of tree branches waiting to scratch and pierce my exposed skin. Desperately I tried to paddle toward the opposite side of the river, but with no luck. I called to my husband who must have heard the terror in my voice because within seconds his muscular arms had delivered him miraculously to my side and pulled me away from the impending bank. He laughed at the spectacle I was. “It’s not funny,” I demanded at his teasing.
For the next two hours of the river run I did not let go of his tube. A couple of times we got separated as a rapid unexpectedly emerged and broke my grip. I panicked, and flailed, stretched my arms as far as they would go, kicked my feet, and did everything I could to reunite with him as quickly as possible. Only when my hand was gripping his innertube did I relax and enjoy the ride. His reassuring presence, his strength, his ability to control what to me was an uncontrollable situation is the reason I made it safely home.
Life can sometimes feel like a river rushing forcefully around us, spinning us out of control. When dark emotions threaten to swallow our hope and we find ourselves panicking, hyperventilating, curled up on the floor in the fetal position, dry-heaving and wishing we could either escape or die because of the heavy pressure on our chest, there is one whom we can cry out to through the terror and the despair. There is One who can calm the storms that rage, whose strength serves an anchor we can hold on to. He is Jesus Christ. He can guide us, and calm us, steady us, and save us. As long as we do all we can to hold onto him, we will make it through the unpredictable course of life and return safely home.