The bus wound around mountain roads, twisting and accelerating into every turn toward the put-in where we would embark on our excursion. My heart beat a little faster as we neared our destination.
My husband and I were headed toward a white-water rafting experience, a new adventure for us. As crews were assigned to rafts, we were delighted that we would be the only ones in the raft with our guide. However, as we were picking up the raft and moving toward the water (they are much heavier than you might think) I was thankful that some others nearby offered to help us carry it to the point of embarkment. In no time we were on the river!
I was a little anxious but mostly excited about sharing the experience with my husband of nearly forty-eight years. We aren’t outdoorsy or super-adventurous, but I felt like we were due for a physical challenge, something to remind us that we are GOOD together.
The scenery was spectacular, the air was pungent with the scent of the river and the summer foliage. The sun was warm in contrast to the chill of the water. Every sense was heightened as we alternated floating through riffles and paddling rapids along the Nantahala River.
Our guide called out commands to paddle. “Forward Four!” At first, she counted as we awkwardly followed her instructions, trying to get accustomed to the rhythm of the strokes; then, as she realized that my husband and I were in synch, she stopped counting. With each instruction, I followed his movement in my peripheral vision and broke the water with my paddle in unison with him.
Along the way, there were times of relaxation. The floats gave our guide time to point out the rhododendron and various rockslides from the past as well as allow us to share our story. Then, as quickly as the calm had come, she would call us back to attention and we would paddle through another rapid.
All too soon we approached the take-out. There was one last exhilarating rapid and a photo to memorialize our adventure.
We were in the area to relax and get away from our routine for a few days, a gracious gift from friends. The rafting trip was something I decided we should do because, frankly, we aren’t getting any younger. I waited until the last minute to book, even though I just knew we should go. I was glad it was not refundable; otherwise I might have come up with some reason to cancel.
And now I understand the lesson. I have not missed the analogy of our forty-eight years to that trip down the river.
Like, from the start we’ve needed help. Life has brought events and circumstances much heavier than we first realized and having others to come alongside to bear our burdens has been a saving grace.
The years have brought times of calm enjoyment. We’ve had time to survey the scenery and savor the moments. And as quickly as that river changed, circumstances have tossed our lives into a frenzy and we’ve had to come to attention. We have trusted God to be “in the raft”, having our backs when all we knew to do was listen and paddle. There have been rockslides as well as boulders hidden just beneath the surface, each taking us by surprise and reminding us that we don’t always have life under control.
Every time we come through adversity or hardship, we look at each other and know we worked hard together and did our best to follow God’s instruction. It wasn’t perfect or even pretty. At times one of us was low in the boat with a momentary struggle but the other was high on the rim of the raft, watching and paddling. We haven’t always been in synch and we’ve had to adjust and compensate for one another’s weaknesses.
As we boarded the bus to return to our car, I asked him “Are you glad we did it?” I knew what he would say (48 years, remember?) but I wanted to hear it from him. His answer was absolutely, without any question, yes. He was grinning from ear to ear. A little proud and lot relieved; we managed to stay in the raft.
As we celebrate our forty-eighth wedding anniversary, I ask myself the question. Am I glad we did it? Absolutely yes! By God’s grace, we have navigated calm and rough waters together, with Him as our guide. We stayed in the raft.
By His grace alone,
So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9-11 The Message