Good Morning Brothers…
The school bus pulled into a little turn-out and stopped. The white water rafting guides got out to look at the Colorado River. Specifically, they were looking at the water as it flowed around three big rocks and continued downstream. Not wanting to be left in the dark, I also got out and stood next to them as they discussed how to navigate around these three rocks at the head of the falls. To describe this as a waterfall is a little bit misleading. Niagara Falls or the Multnomah Falls in Oregon had nothing to fear from Three Rock Falls, however, we would never dream to raft over the other two. The vertical dimension between the top of the falls and the bottom was only about 5 feet. In a raft however, I can see why the guides wanted to eye ball this from the bank first, before rafting down it. It was late May and the melting snow had increased the volume of water flowing down the Colorado River dramatically. We needed to hit the falls just right in order to avoid disaster.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2
When I think back on the events of that day, it is easy to find spiritual analogy in the physical reality of our time on the river. I was on my honeymoon. My beautiful bride and I had exchanged the vows of covenant and oneness only three days prior. We have started our life journey together as one body-new flesh. The river represents the unpredictability of life. More specifically, the river represents life after the garden. A life filled with the fury and the treachery of a broken relationship with the Lord. The river represented the flowing of sin. In a classic use of “christianese”, we like to use this phrase, “We are in the world but not of the world.” While this phrase is not a Bible verse, the meaning is pulled from many different verses. It essentially means that we do live in this world, however, we will not be shaped or molded by the values and principles taught by the un-Godly. In order for us to be “in” and not “of” we need grace. We need the divine assistance of the Almighty to escape the fury and treachery of the world.
My raft was grace. It enabled us to ride along the surface of the water without being pulled down into the currents and left to the mercy of the river.
After we unloaded the rafts, we spent the morning practicing many different maneuvers in shallow slow water that we would need when the pace picked up and the water deepened. We learned to obey the commands of our guide as he would bark out different orders to different groups of people. We were all sitting along the edge of the raft and we had different jobs based on our strengths. I sat in the first position, left side of the raft, right next to another guy with big shoulders and arms. Our job was to pull the raft through the currents. We were called the “diggers”. When are guide yelled out “DIG”, we would lean forward, one on the left and one on the right, and paddle with deep powerful strokes. The people behind us were instructed to follow our lead and paddle two strokes for every one of our strokes. Our guide sat in the rear center of the raft and steered.
“For who is God, besides the Lord?
And who is a rock, besides our God?” 2 Samuel 22:32
We stopped along the river and had lunch. Our guide pulled me and the other “digger” aside and talked to us about what lies ahead. He explained the necessity of hitting Three Rock Falls correctly. Our aiming point was just to the left of the center rock. He told us that the raft will have a tendency to get hung up in the eddy just below the falls and he was depending on us to “dig” through. Otherwise, the raft can turn sideways and capsize. He then went on explaining how capsizing was not a good idea. I heartily agreed. Spiritually speaking, the guide was a Bible teacher, a pastor, someone who instructs others how to live for Christ and to provide warning about upcoming danger.
As we approached the falls, our guide was yelling, “Come right, come right”, and we obliged. The problem was that we came to far right and the our raft hit the center rock. This served to send the raft over the falls at an angle. The left front of the raft (where I sat) entered the eddy first and I heard the guide scream “DIG”. Leaning forward, plunging my oar over the side, I hit nothing but air as the rear of the boat slammed into the eddy and I was catapulted behind the raft back up to the top of the falls. Going over the falls for a second time, this time without grace, was an experience I do not want to have again. As I washed downstream, I could see the guide trying to position the raft in front of me, in order that I would be able to grab it and pull myself to safety. I also remembered the safety meeting from earlier that morning, “By the slim chance that you happen to fall out of the raft, position your legs downstream to take the impact from the rocks and sticks and any other obstacles which are below the surface of the water.”
I tried to do that…I mean…I really tried to do that.
I felt like I was in a washing machine and had zero control over my body. The current of that river was master here and I was a play thing. A thing to be tossed, toyed with, and battered. The salvation I wore around my chest in the form of a life jacket is the only thing that kept me from the dark fate of the river that day. The fury and treachery of the river softened a bit and I was able to grab hold of the hands extended from grace, and I climbed back onto the raft. My oar was recovered as well, and I continued in my duties of being a “digger” for the remainder of the trip.
So the common man has been humbled
And the man of importance has been abased,
But do not forgive them.
Enter the rock and hide in the dust
From the terror of the Lord and from the splendor of His majesty.
The proud look of man will be abased
And the loftiness of man will be humbled,
And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day. Isaiah 2:9-11
Brothers…wear the life jacket of salvation, stay afloat on grace, listen to your guide, and avoid the fury and treachery of the dark river.