Back when I booked this trip, white-water rafting had sounded like a great idea. Now, it sounded absolutely absurd.
by Jean Beere
What was I thinking? Why had I paid in advance to do this? I will never do it again. That is what was going through my mind as I began my first white-water rafting experience in Colorado this past summer.
The trip was part of my five-day stay at Duck Lake near Ward, Colorado. Duck Lake is nestled in the mountains at an altitude of approximately 9,000 feet.
Cold weather was predicted for the day of the rafting trip, but when I woke up that morning, I was shocked to see light snow on the ground. I am not a cold-water person; I take showers so hot my skin turns pink. Back when I booked this trip, white-water rafting had sounded like a great idea. Now, it sounded absolutely absurd. I had worked out all year preparing for this trip — exercising on the elliptical, lifting weights, and eating as healthy as I could. Physically, I felt prepared; but now my emotions were getting the best of me. Cold water — I hate cold water; it hurts.
But my friend Jill and our guide, Jody, were ready to go and couldn’t wait to start the trip. So, off we went. The river we were to raft was south of where we were staying, and the snow had not reached that area. The weather was cool but not uncomfortably cold.
Once we arrived, we were given the option of wearing a wetsuit. Not only did I take them up on it, I got the whole package — the shoes, the jacket, the helmet (not an option), gloves, and I wore a long sleeve shirt underneath the suit. I first put on the shirt and then put the jumpsuit on over the shirt. The suit was still damp from the previous day, but warmed up quickly next to my body. Next came the shoes, which were a little worn, but still covered my feet. The outer jacket was waterproof. I layered my clothing very thoughtfully; I wanted to be protected.
We met our guide, who went through all the instructions of what to do and what not to do. He even had a sense of humor — he had a good laugh when I asked if the water was really cold and if the suit would keep me warm. We put on our helmets, loaded into the van, and were off to our drop off area. I continued to worry. This had all sounded so good back in hot Texas.
We walked the raft down to the river and proceeded, one by one, to get into the raft. I sat in the back with Jill. It didn’t take long for the first wave of water to hit us. To my surprise, the water was cold but warmed up very quickly. Each wave that splashed on me was not as bad as I thought. Yes, some were cold, but some waves were surprisingly refreshing. I was working very hard to paddle as our guide instructed and concentrated on listening to his instructions and his stories about the river and the area. I enjoyed watching the trip unfold before my very eyes. The wetsuit didn’t prevent me from feeling the cold water, but it did keep it from ruining the experience I was having.
Then I started to think. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, tells us to wear our armor at all times, to be prepared spiritually for all that will come our way and to be familiar with God’s voice so we will know what to do when God talks to us.
“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians 6:10-11, 13-18 NIV
The armor won’t stop us from feeling pain, hurt, despair, frustration, envy, all the emotions, illnesses, and troubles of this world; but it will prevent this pain from penetrating so deeply that we can’t enjoy the gift of life God has given us. We are to study His word and be in prayer so we can hear Him when He speaks to us. We are to continue to surround ourselves with the body of Christ; they are the machines we use to keep us fit and strong so we can “ride the rapids” of our life. God, in all of his goodness, has given us the best river to ride, has given us the best wetsuit to wear, and has promised us He will always be our guide if we just do our part and stay prepared.
Why does it take the fear of doing something outside our comfort zone for us to get the message of His good news?
Jean Beere is on the staff of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.