Rocks, Rapids, and Rewards
“Man, this trip would be a whole lot easier without so many rocks!”, quipped one member of our raft. To which I replied, “Yeah, but then it wouldn’t be as fun. We need the rocks to make it interesting!”
Our group of 11, split into two rafts, had joined a larger whitewater rafting trip down a gorgeous mountain river. Once our crew of mostly novices learned how to direct our raft, we were doing some good steering and rapid-riding…
… until… whoops – the raft suddenly tilted steeply left, and three of us fell out! Great day for a swim J Still, all three of us thanked the people in another raft who rescued us and helped us get back into our own raft. That is, once the others had managed to shake it off the rock they’d run aground on, which had caused our tipping and tumbling.
But we still needed those rocks, both hidden and evident.
First, they made the trip more fun—more adventure, more challenge, more thrill as the rocks helped stir up and direct the rapids. No rocks-- no white water-- no white-water rafting. Might as well just stick a raft in a big swimming pool. (I actually saw people do that once at the Y!).
Second, the obstacles and challenges themselves built skill, strength, and problem-solving ability into us. We had to figure out how to ride the rapids, avoid rocks and keep ourselves in the raft when he hit the “level 3”s. The better we got at all that, the better the ride, and the greater sense of accomplishment we enjoyed. Not to mention the brain and arm muscles developed in the process!
Third, we became a real team. Seeing as we were all in the same boat, we knew we’d all need to pitch in to create the best experience. Here was another case of “teamwork makes the dream work”. As we learned how to understand and carry out our fearless captain’s orders and paddle in sync with each other, we sailed around rocks, and rode rapids successfully. Then our captain would call out “high five!” and we’d all raise our paddles to click them together in unity, cheering each other on. This doesn’t mean we achieved perfection. But we worked together and enjoyed the process. No rocks or rapids would have meant no way to morph from six individuals into a unified team.
Finally, the exhilaration, the challenge-meeting, and the team development, helped us build relationships. In that group of eleven, some of us had only met the night before or were just friendly acquaintances. By the end of that rock-rife, roiling-rapids, raft-ride, we had become friends, having experienced true fellow-ship (couldn’t resist that!). Including with the five in the other raft, with whom we’d had “water wars”, raced, and empathized when they got stuck on rocks or fell overboard. Even more so, when we could all talk about the shared experience together. (“Wow, that trip really rocked!”)
Ultimately, the challenges built our faith in and relationship with the Lord. During the roughest, bounciest, rapids, the anchor-man called out to Him for help, I chimed in with “Amen!”, and we all praised Him for giving us strength and protection. As the kids’ camp song goes, “With Jesus in the boat, we’ll smile in the storm…”
This trip illustrated Rom. 5:3-5—“…we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
The rapids in our lives may feel more like stress and pressure than exhilaration. And, coupled with the “rocks” of trials and obstacles, we too may groan and declare that life would be a lot easier without them! But, just like on a white-water rafting trip, we need those challenges and trials to create adventure and significance on our journey of life. To build character as we persevere. To wean us off of individualistic self-centeredness as we learn teamwork and caring for others. To develop and deepen relationships with those we encounter on our path in every season of life. And to build our trust in God as we see Him come through every time we exercise and stretch our “faith muscles”.
Enjoy the ride!