The water was starting to move a little faster. As the boat picked up speed, I started to get a little nervous. The smooth, fun ride that we started with was now turning my stomach a little with every bump. A group from our youth group had decided to go white water rafting in Virginia. None of us had done it before, but the promises of fun that came from the smiles on the brochure were enough to convince us that it was worth the 6-hour drive. When we pulled up to our destination, there were two distinct companies on either side of the parking lot. The first one, the one we had intended to go down the river with, was on the left. However, a much smaller, less shiny sign caught our interest on the other side of the parking lot. After reading through both signs, it became clear that the price wasn’t the only difference. The boats were less colorful, the life jackets a little more tattered. The main difference, however, was how we would actually get down the river. The first company manned each boat with a guide who steered you down the river, current lifeguard certification and rescue equipment included.
The teenager at the counter could sense my hesitation but quickly convinced me. His sales pitch explained why we didn’t need to pay the extra money for the guide. The boats went down the same river, and as long as we did the same thing they did, we would be fine.
That made perfect sense to my 15-year-old brain. There seemed to be no reason to pay an extra $300 between our group if we could just follow the expensive boats down the same river. Collectively, our very young and very unwise group decided to rent the unmanned bargain boats. I didn’t yet realize that sometimes wisdom comes with the cost of forfeiting the shortcuts.
As we approached the water, the sound of the rapids drowned out any thoughts of nervous caution. I think sin can be like that too. The excitement of the moment and the selfishness it feeds can drown out that still, small voice that beckons us to safety.
Getting on the river happened quickly. At first, it seemed like it would be foolish for anyone to pay double for a guided boat. We laughed about our cunning ability to save money and the freedom we had, not having anyone tell us what to do. At first, it almost felt like we were racing the guided boats down the river, and we were winning. Little did we realize that our feelings of superiority would be short-lived. As the rapids transitioned from easy to more difficult, I was the only one who noticed the guided boats were all going to the right of a certain boulder out in front of us. Mentioning this to the rest of the people in my boat, they easily dismissed me because of the work it would take to get over to that side of the river. Going against the current would be too difficult. Despite the nagging feeling that we should go to the right side of the river, the current on the left side pulled us along.
There are so many parallels I can see now, that I was blinded to back then. Choosing obedience, to listen to the one who knows the best way, can be difficult. Many of the voices around us are designed to accept the path that the “current” of sin takes us down.
It only took another minute or so to see why the other boats fought their way to the other side of the boulder that seemed to be rather small. Small enough that it didn’t seem to warrant major alarm or change of course.
Sometimes, when we are headed down a path towards sin, the warning signs can seem small. We still can make a different choice. If we aren’t paying attention though or listening to the voices of the world, it becomes easy to justify the “smallness” of those warning signs.
What I realized in the next few moments was that the first boulder was the smallest one we would see for the rest of our trip down the river. We were now facing boulders so large that they separated the water into two distinct paths. As I watched the boats on the other side navigate themselves confidently, the wisdom of the guide helping them navigate their path, I ached for the security that they must have felt. Looking at the path ahead of me, I knew that we were headed for something much more dangerous. There were no other boats on this side of the river. Even the other unguided boats similar to ours recognized that the path the guide chose was where they needed to be.
Despite our hesitance to fully trust God as our guide, He knows the things that are out in front of us and can see them long before we can. As we trust Him, allowing Him to help us navigate the things in our life, there is security in knowing that He already knows the course we should take.
What happened next was something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. As we approached the next rapid, I could see that there was a large spray of water to the left and another boulder to the right. As our boat came up upon the rapid, it was sucked into the vacuum of the water and tipped to the right. In what seemed like slow motion, I felt myself slip out of the boat. The boulder was to my left, covered in slime. The boat was to my right, and the pressure of the current held me below the surface of the water. As much as I tried to climb out of that space, it very quickly became evident that I was not able to pull myself out. I remember looking up and could see the sky and the clouds above me. I had the thought that I was glad that I was going to heaven because this was how I was going to die.
Suddenly, while I was still looking up, I felt myself being pulled from the water. The next thing I knew, I was back in the boat. Coughing, drenched, in shock, but back in the boat. A friend had somehow been able to reach in and pull me out. I don’t remember much about the rest of that day. But what I do remember is that in a moment where I was completely helpless to save myself from death, someone reached into that space to pull me out.
We are all born with this inherent nature that pulls us toward sin. There is no escaping it. It drags us along to a place that ultimately leads us to death. There is no way we can pull ourselves from that place.
Dear friend, there is only one person that can.
I have made you, and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4b
In those moments that we are overwhelmed with our sin, helpless to get ourselves out, there is only one that can reach in to pull us out.
And sis, He wants you to know something. It’s not too late.
We all have this desire we are born with, this desire to be safe, ultimately from the death, we are all headed towards. But that security can only come when we trust the guide. And I know that is hard and scary and seems like a lot of work. But sis? That’s the whole point. We can’t do it on our own. There is only one way that we can walk in the assurance that we know, eternally, that we are safe.
Surrender. Surrender to the one who loves you enough to die for you. Surrender to the one who loves you enough to do what’s best for you, even when you disagree. Surrender to the one who knows what’s coming down the river. There is a counterfeit though. One that seems to offer the same promise, but with life on your own terms.
His hand is out to you, sis. The choice is yours.
This week, as we approach Easter, let’s think about the only one that can reach down into our desperation and pull us out. There is no fear there sis, only rescue.
Praying for You,
Things to ponder:
In what ways have I tended to go my own way instead of the way God would have me go? How have those choices affected my life?
Things to pray:
Even now, God desires to rescue you. Spend some time in prayer, giving Him the things that have carried you away from Him.