Finding your way through the rapids of life

Going into my senior year of high school, I was nervous about the future and unsure about what I wanted to do after I graduated. I was worried that I wouldn’t feel satisfied no matter what I did, so I was generally apathetic about the whole process of figuring out my future.

However, these concerns were the last thing on my mind as I sat on a railroad trestle looking down at a river rapid called Zoom Flume. I was a counselor-in-training with a camp kayaking program, and we were scouting one of the biggest rapids that we would run that summer. I was giddy with excitement and nerves; I love Zoom Flume. The faces of the campers around me ranged from that same excitement and nervousness to something a lot closer to dread. 

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The purpose of scouting this rapid was to put together a “line”—a plan for how to get through each element of the rapid and move from one element to the next. Since this is a camp for Christian Scientists, we often begin our activities with spiritual inspiration. In the river-oriented programs, one idea that’s been helpful is the spiritual definition of river from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy: “Channel of thought. 

“When smooth and unobstructed, it typifies the course of Truth; but muddy, foaming, and dashing, it is a type of error” (p. 593). 

In my mind, this idea goes hand in hand with planning your line. As you find, create, and follow a good line, your perspective of the river changes. You begin to think of it less as muddy and foaming and more as smooth and unobstructed. I really related to this, since I’d been feeling disconnected from God because of fear, and so my thoughts seemed muddy. Life, like the river, felt hard to navigate. But my apprehension, at least about kayaking the rapids, disappeared as the group’s confidence in our spiritual perception of the river increased.

 I’d been feeling disconnected from God because of fear, and so my thoughts felt muddy. 

As we waited to tackle the rapid, several campers took off ahead of me. I got into my kayak with renewed faith in my abilities and with a clear course of action. But as I went forward into the rapid, I saw the flipped boat of a camper in front of me and others racing to help. As I was witnessing this drama, it was difficult to focus on the new insight I’d had. My eyes were glued to the camper as I watched the rescue go down. And because I wasn’t paying attention to my own line, I ended up too close to the shore and in a stressful and potentially dangerous position of my own.

I made it out of the rapid OK. It was cool to see that even though I’d been distracted, the ideas I’d been praying with still got me through. 

What I was most grateful for, though, was how this experience helped me realize that in a way, God guides us like we might guide a boat through a river. God’s great love for us means that even when the waters look muddy, He will still guide us through as though those same waters were calm and clear. As we rely on our spiritual perception, we can actually see this happening and feel confident instead of afraid.

God’s great love for us means that even when the waters look muddy, He will still guide us through as though those same waters were calm and clear.

Of course, lines aren’t just for rivers. I learned to look for a spiritual “line” and find direction for my plans after high school. It helped me feel less worried about the future and more excited to see the good that would come as I navigated my course with God.

I love knowing that the difference between seeing something as “foaming, and dashing” and seeing it as “smooth and unobstructed” is your trust in God—and your willingness to follow His guidance—as you keep making your way forward.

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