Wait a minute. That doesn’t sound grateful enough.
You can’t possibly understand the magnitude of that statement, unless you are one of the six other women who almost died with me! We are all
alive and well and more trusting than when our trip began, but let me start at the beginning.
I was eager to start the day! After all, we were on Mt. Moriah (Arkansas, of course), and the irony was not lost on me! I’d started the summer with the story of Abraham in my heart – a journey up a winding path that would lead to sacrifice; what I didn’t know is what that would look like… And neither did he. But, we trusted. By faith we began the climb. And by faith we came back down that mountain pleasantly surprised… Both marveling at His provision of the Lamb. This weekend would be my celebration, the full-circle experience of healing. The thing about God is this – at the end of every lesson He likes to present a visual…or at least in my experiences. So, I probably should have expected it, and I should have warned my dear sisters!
After lunch we set out on our excursion – a leisure ride down the river, enjoying the swift current and laughing all the way. Six women holding hands and looking forward to a beautiful day and a chance to work on our tans. Well, that was what we thought.
Looking at the ominous sky ahead should have been our first clue to abandon our plan, but we were hopeful, excited, and (I hate to admit it) stupid. We embarked. At first our laughter was fun, but as the clouds before us darkened and the waters tossed and turned us, it became more of a nervous laugh, a laugh that said, “This really isn’t funny, but I’ll pretend to be courageous.” As the current moved us deeper into the storm, lightening struck right in front of us, and we passed our last chance to turn back, we realized exactly how ridiculous our decision had been! Did I mention that it was an hour drift until we would have another chance? Yeah. But, that’s when trust soars highest – at the point of no return.
As we careened down the churning waters, I had visions of the worst kind: Straddling a tree while the corpses of my dearest friends floated off down a makeshift River Stix, one of us being gored through the heart by a sharp branch protruding from the waters, or all of us drowning and being dashed against the rocks without anyone seeing. These were my fears. And amidst all this I heard His voice, “Do you trust me?” And though our circumstances threatened to over come us, I believed He was watching over His precious, even if severely foolish, daughters.
As our fear intensified so did the rain. If watching a storm and seeing your demise was bad, blinding rain with the sound of approaching rapids was terrifying! Add to that the fact that it hurt – you might not think it, but needles of rain pelting exposed bodies sprawled across an inner-tube is painful! And there is no cover! (unless you count the time we were trapped underneath a tree, but trust me, that was no consolation!)
There were moments of peace, but they were short-lived. Looking back I can see that they were God-given moments to catch our breath and slow our heart rates for the next catastrophe! We prayed for solace. We hoped for salvation, and we trusted in a God that promised never to forsake us. And we all had lessons to learn…intimate, unique lessons from the Almighty, our Great Teacher.
I would love to say that I was strong and courageous and never cried. No. I cried like a baby. Not at the prospect of death, not at the raging rapids, but at the point where I had to let go. You see, we were all holding onto one another…but when the trees captured us and the river curled and twisted, a friend of mine was about to capsize. I was desperate not to let go, and my fear held her tight. Her eyes widened and she begged, “Leslie, you have to let me go!” Tears welled up in my eyes and I screamed over the roaring waters, “I don’t want to let go!” I never want to let go. I never want to lose anyone. I never want to abandon those I love, but like in my life experience, God said again, “Letting go will save her.” I hesitated for a moment, but I knew the truth and against my flesh and will, I released her. She lived to suffer another day of barbed wire fences and bamboo injections. Your welcome, Becky.
I wrangled myself out of the tree and my spiritual mom, my mentor and my friend grabbed my rope! How very appropriate. She is remarkable and optimistic under the worst of circumstances! I vividly remember as the skies got darker, this dear lady chose to ride backward – not looking at the gloom and doom in the clouds but the blue skies that were behind us…until there was no more blue to focus on and so resolved to survive, she got down to business, all pretense abandoned. She and I faithfully battled our adversarial conditions including, but not limited to, a puncture wound to my inner-tube, resulting in a wilted piece of rubber and plastic that was thrown away. Eventually we found our way back to shore, to the house we were retreating, to our other friend that had been praying non-stop for our safety and met us crying…an hour and twenty minutes later.
Though treacherous and terrifying we never lost our hope, and even more miraculously, we never lost our tempers. I mean, when your in survival mode its not the time to start pointing fingers! And who would we have blamed? We all rode into the storm willingly, together. We can look back on it and laugh. (Especially when Lisa played “Shall we gather at the river” for us all before bed!) We all agree it was an hour of our lives that we will never forget, and if we thought we were close before, we are forever united in this. More than that, we are forever assured of the love of our Father that granted us mercy in our ignorance and instilled a deep seated peace in each of our hearts. I still haven’t stopped thanking God, none of us will, even after our second river adventure… but that’s a story for another time; I’m still catching my breath and poor Becky is recovering from the bamboo shoot from hell. Regardless, Our God is faithful, and deserving or not we’re alive!