Glynda Kinsland Johnson
My husband, Michael, is deep in prayer and deep in water, his kayak having filled to within two inches of the top.
“I knew I shouldn’t have done this,” he whispers.
Others, more experienced, had warned him, but the urgings of his companions convinced him that crossing would be worth the risk.
The surface of the water, flat when they launched, is now choppy and thrashing with white caps. The wind continues to build. Michael prays for deliverance and paddles with a determination that leaves his buddies far behind.
From the middle of the three mile wide river, my husband’s eyes scan the shoreline.
“Please, God, lead me to a place where I can land this thing!”
Only sea grass presents itself…no shore…no haven for rest and regrouping.
Michael makes progress, but it is achingly slow. To cut down on the amount of water he is taking on, Michael uses an old sailing technique…tacking. He maneuvers his kayak in a zigzag pattern. Now the waves only crash over his head when turning, but paddling on this course will take twice as long, and he is still within inches of sinking. His upper body burns with the fatigue of moving a boat full of water through the water. If this strategy doesn’t work, it is pretty much all he’s got.
The praying continues.
My husband doesn’t fear drowning. He has faith, maybe too much faith, in his life jacket. But his mind is tallying up what he will leave on the bottom of the river when the kayak goes under. The sea kayak he is paddling so hard to save is not even his own. His kayak is stashed safely on dry land. Rarely in life has he felt such despair.
Suddenly, Michael’s eyes catch sight of a small beach breaking up the endless line of sea grass. No more than five feet long, it is just enough to offer hope. Michael heads for that shore. His rhythmic paddling is punctuated by utterings of, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Shortly after he lands, the river guide pulls up and they empty the kayak of water. After a few minutes of rest, the guide calls out, “Let’s get going.”
“What do you mean, let’s get going?” my husband shouts.
The river is still dancing with the wind.
The guide hands him a skirt for the kayak. “Put this on and you will be fine.”
“Are you kidding me? You had skirts all along?” Michael asks. “Why didn’t we put these on before we started crossing?”
“I didn’t think we needed them,” the guide says and starts to push off.
Michael snaps the skirt into place and slips into the rough water. What presented itself as peril just moments before is now just a nuisance of wetness. Water rolls over the top of the kayak, slides across the skirt and back into the river. The kayak and my husband are dry beneath the skirt. Paddling is effective and desperation has departed…same rough waters, totally different experience, due solely to the covering of the skirt.
How often in life have we faced struggles that threaten to take us under…if not physically, then emotionally and spiritually? Have we ever ignored the warnings of others, even God, and followed peers or pride into situations that could cause us harm? Where is God in these times of peril?
God promises that these testings of our faith will strengthen us and build endurance. If we turn fully toward God, then our trials will not harm us. If we face challenging times relying on our own strength and understanding, then we will be tempted to do the wrong thing.
Be encouraged. The joy of trials is that, as we traverse them, we can discover more of the beautiful nature of our Heavenly Father. God provides protection at all times. He is to us as the skirt was to the kayak. His protection is perfect…sound…lacking in nothing…complete. The good news is that God is always with us. We are never alone in the treacherous waters of life.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:2, NIV)
Michael and company do successfully reach their destination and end their eight-day kayak experience. He returns the sea kayak to the river guide and retrieves his own little red kayak.
“Was it fun?” I ask the group.
“Define fun,” one of his friends says.
Is my husband wiser from this experience?
Well, when his brother remarks that kayaking looks like something he might want to try, my husband quickly replies, “I know where you can buy a kayak…cheap”
The red kayak sells on the same day that Michael finally makes it to shore.
From my perspective, that was wise!