Sunday, July 31, 2011

Triumph

The sandbar where we kayak so Asherel and friends can swim has become my social outlet, my coffee klatch, without the coffee. Whenever we anchor for very long at the sandbar, I meet fellow kayakers and eventually, they all have a story to tell. I am always curious to see what person God floats in my path. Will I be blessed, or happy day of happy day, be a blessing?

The first to float in my world that afternoon was a woman with two young boys. I was sitting in the water, watching Asherel and her friend swim. The lady docked at the sandbar, and instantly the two young boys decided they wanted to take the kayak out alone. (She had been in a double kayak with the less skilled boy.) They pushed off into the channel. I had noticed the current getting stronger, which happens when the dam water upriver is released. Sometimes the current is very strong then. I could see the kayak caught in the flow, and begin to move swiftly. The two boys began to paddle, but the kayak moved away, with the current. The lady stood up and looked poised to run, but still she waited, watching.

I watched too. I would not have waited, had they been my boys. But I knew I was a strong kayaker with a tow rope, and if needed, I could rescue the boys. She moved forward, tense, and then said to me, "I am wrestling here.... I need to decide when to go in after them."
"Well," I said, "I did meet a kayak instructor here last time who said one of his group was playing in the water when they released the dam water, and the current carried him all the way to that bridge." I waved in the distance, where the freeway crossed over the Catawba River.
She watched the boys, still fighting the current, but now at least inching back to the very shallow water.
"They are in no danger," I told her, "I mean you may have to tow them back but they have their life jackets."
I admired her restraint...or perhaps it was foolishness. I would have long ago been dragging those kids back to shore.

But then she said something that really struck me.
"This is the first thing my son has ever felt confident about. He is a strong kayaker for someone his age. He is so shy and timid, and won't ever try anything, but I finally got him to try this, and he loves it. If I rescue him now, I am afraid he will lose that."
I sat in the water, watching the struggle of the two boys against the current. I was as tense as she was now, willing and praying those boys to overcome the river. Slowly, they began to paddle the boat back towards us. The river tugged and they tugged back, and finally, triumphantly, they pulled back to the sand bar. The mother and I both exhaled, and I wished I had met her and had this discussion when my children were babies.

I have a well developed ability to envision the worst that can happen. I don't know if that is because of my training as an Occupational Therapist where I treated quadriplegics who one day were diving and the next moment paralyzed for life, but I find it very hard to let best case scenarios play themselves out.

I remember Jonah's argument against the Ninevites, where God had commanded him to go. The Ninevites hated Jonah's people, they would never listen to him, and may indeed just end up killing him. Yet God is always in the business of strengthening us by forcing us to confront the situations we can't imagine enduring, can't imagine surviving. Sometimes, we don't, but the reward is still there. We just don't necessarily collect it before shuffling off this mortal coil. But sometimes, even here on earth, even when we are young and unskilled, and still stumbling towards maturity, sometimes even then we manage to overcome the current and plant our feet on solid ground again, and  know what it is to triumph.

"See Mom," called the boy, "I'm a good kayaker."
"Yes you are," agreed his mother, unclenching her hands.

Jeremiah 1:19
19 They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD.

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