“I will always rescue you,” Edric said as we grabbed our helmets and vests and headed for the Davao Wild River Rapids.
Ever since I got pulled under the Gulf Coast waves in Florida as a young child, I developed a fear of drowning. This fear is the reason why I don’t like sports like surfing, scuba diving or anything that has to do with being under water. So when TMA Homeschool (the organization Edric and I are connected with) organized a team building activity that involved rapids, I was a little nervous.
It didn’t help that my thrill-seeking husband asked our guide to make the raft capsize. He was so excited about getting everyone to fall into the water. I kept telling him, “Please don’t make him do that, babe. You are scaring the whole team.” He just laughed and thought it was funny that everyone was freaking out. But to be considerate, he decided that only those who wanted a more adventurous experience would ride in our raft.
Riding the rapids taught me so many spiritual lessons. But I was happiest when it all ended and we made it out of the three-hour ordeal alive.
The first thing I learned was, pay attention to God’s instruction and heed it. In the same way that we had to listen to our guides and apply what they taught us, God gives us life principles to live by. These principles are meant to prepare us for the battles of life, protect us, equip us for everyday living, and help us finish well. Our guides were very specific about how to put on our protective gear, how to rescue one another, how to do a defensive swim, what each part of the raft was, how to use an oar, and we had to memorize the six commands for paddling. And like our guides who knew everything about the Davao river and it’s rapids, God sees the bigger picture so we can trust him with our lives.
My next lesson was, problems in marriage and life are inevitable. You can’t blame people when bad things happen. You have to focus on what is within your control and do what you can. In marriage, Edric and I learned this statement from authors, Harold and Darlene Sala: when things get tense in marriage and you want to blame your spouse, say this instead, “You are not the enemy.”
The first time our raft nearly capsized, I was upset at Edric. I felt that this would not have happened if he had not challenged our guide. He fell hard on top of me and I was forced under the the water — my worst fear! I was so disoriented and drank quite a bit of the river (which was brown from all the soil that mixed into it during rainy season). Edric found me right away and made sure I was okay. But, I had mixed feelings about my hero. A part of me was thinking, Is this what you wanted?! How could you have let this happen to me?! However, the current was so strong that Edric and I didn’t have time to discuss marriage issues. We were in survival mode. Blaming him for our treacherous predicament was the last of my priorities. I just wanted both of us and everyone else to make it out of there.
As he instructed me, I was more than glad to submit to his leading. Edric helped me maneuver myself to the “defensive position,” which the guides had explained as floating down the river feet first and holding on to the ore against your chest. I felt the rocks beneath me as I rushed past them. Admittedly, I was freaking out. Edric saw panic on my face and he said, “I got you.” He helped me dodge a huge, jagged rock and get to calmer water.
We eventually got rescued but this was just the beginning of the rapids. Later on, we found out that someone almost died in the same spot where we had nearly capsized! The water in that part forcefully sucks a person under and will repeatedly spin them around and around.
Edric and I did what we could to get back to safety. Eventually, we were both pulled up onto another raft by our friends.
Getting rescued made me realize that no person makes it through life as a lone ranger. The company we keep is crucial. We need to surround ourselves with people who will keep us going in the right direction. There will be moments when we will need someone to be there to help us through an obstacle or problem, pray for us, offer encouragement, or keep us grounded in the truth when circumstances get tough. Do we have people like that in our lives? Are we that kind of people to others?
Back to the rapids…We all took a break to regroup and get over the crises of being flung off the rafts. We found a small shore to “park.” There were other people besides Edric and I who fell into the water. One of our friends was thrown off, pulled under the raft and came out without her helmet. Another one was stuck under the raft and said she felt like she was going to die. She was in tears. Many people were shaken up by what happened but we said to one another, “God is in control. He is going to protect us.” We decided to pray as a team. Of course our guides were completely calm. They didn’t seem fazed at all! This was normal to them.
I was NOT excited to keep going but there was no other way home. In my heart, I prayed, “Lord! Please, please, don’t let that happen again! You know how afraid I am. I don’t want to fall in again.” I didn’t act that afraid in front of the others because I didn’t want to add to the drama, but I was scared.
As we progressed down the river, I asked our guide if we had passed the worst parts. He said, “No, we still have level four rapids coming up.”
Yikes! I felt like throwing up. But, I chose to remember that I had asked God for protection. Everytime I started praying, I felt peace. I was still nervous but somehow I knew that God was going to answer my prayer. In the back of my mind, I was also thinking, why in the world did we choose to do this team building activity during this time of the year, which the guides said is the most hazardous time?! Did anyone ocular the dangers evolved?!
As I continued praying, I forgot to pray for Edric! And sure enough, at the longest stretch of rapids, he flew out of the raft. For the first time, our guide seemed concerned. He had a look of shock on his face. I yelled out, “Edric! Where is Edric?!” Yes, I was panicking! This part of the river had more rocks and the current was even stronger! There was no still water for a while. Thank God his head finally popped up above the water.
However, the raft I was in could not stop for him and we were about to come up against a pretty big drop. “Row forward! Row hard! Row harder!,” our guide commanded. We couldn’t wait for Edric. He had to be rescued by a guide who was following us on a red kayak.
When we lost Edric, fear started to grip me in a new way. Edric and I were front rowers on our raft (which I will not volunteer for again). Without him across from me, I felt alone. Everytime our raft bounced up and down on the water, I had the scariest view of the rapids. I wanted him to be there so badly to feel safe. And every time I thought of Edric being gone from our raft I was worried. He has always been my “knight in shining armor.” And he had said before we got on our rafts, “I will always rescue you.” He couldn’t do that now. And where was he, anyway?! Was he okay?
At this point I learned another valuable lesson. Our sense of security cannot revolve around our spouse or people. Ultimately, our sense of security has to be anchored on God. Finally, I said, “Lord, I get it! You want me to depend on you and you alone!” So, I just kept praying inside like a mad woman and we finally made it through to the end without any more “casualties.”
Where in the world was Edric? I saw the small red kayak coming down the river, braving the last part of the rapids. Edric was sitting on it, upright, and just fine. It was a beautiful site! Praise God!
My appreciation level and love for him was at all time high! Whatever resentment I initially had towards him about telling our guide to make us capsize, went away. I was so thankful that he was okay and that we were standing on land together.
The first thing he showed me when he walked up onto shore was that his ring finger was missing his wedding ring. At that point, I didn’t care. That wedding ring had sentimental value to us because he had it customized in Israel, but facing a life-threatening situation made me consider what is really important. Material things seemed so inconsequential.
This brings me to my final lesson. I began to see a parallel between what we went through and eternity. Getting to the end of the rapids and stepping on to shore felt like heaven to me. I was so happy to be away from the river, it’s twists and turns, all the rocking, unpredictable drops and precarious whirlpools. Sure, there were moments of calm and stillness that were great to paddle through, but towards the latter part, I was just tired of the paddling. I wanted it all to be over so I could be back on land!
Each one of us will have a customized set of hardships to face in this life. God knows what we can and cannot handle. And his purpose is the same. He wants to take us from faith to greater faith, to build and strengthen our character, and to ready us for his kingdom. Our part is to stay the course that will take us “Home” and persevere until the end. Revelation 21:4 says, ‘”He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’” It wasn’t until I was safely on shore that I felt relaxed and completely relieved. The feeling was incredible!
However, my joy was not complete until I saw Edric walk up on to shore to me. And then I looked around and saw that everyone was there. Our rafts arrived at different times but we all stepped out safely onto land.
What about someday?, I thought. Will it be the same? Will all the people I love and know be in heaven? Will anyone be missing?
When my grandmother passed away some years ago, my grandfather said to her, “Kitty, you have a one way ticket to heaven and you are going there ahead of me. But I will see you there.”
I want to be able to say “I will see you there” to everyone I know and love. God used this on-the-rocks-experience to remind me of the One True Rock — Jesus Christ, the Rock of My Salvation. Am I telling people about Him? Or am I so busy paddling myself to shore and so preoccupied with my own concerns?
When we got back to the Crocodile Park to return all our gear, I said, “Hon, maybe you should share the gospel with our guide.” But he had already been planning to do so. So after we all took our showers, he went up to him and said, “Do you ever feel afraid when you are out on the rapids? What if something were to happen? Have you ever thought of the possibility that you could die out there?” Our guide said, “I do get afraid.”
Edric asked him if he wanted to know how to overcome this fear. Our guide was willing to listen. So Edric proceeded to share that God promises to give us eternal life through His son, Jesus. He shared with him John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” He also told our guide that he could have a personal relationship with Jesus by believing in him and making him his Savior and Lord. In the end, Edric prayed with and for our guide.
We may not be able to tell every single person in the world about Jesus but we can start by telling the people God has put right in front of us and around us.
Will I ride the rapids again? Probably not any time soon and maybe even never! But I can take the spiritual lessons I learned and let them make a difference in my life over and over again until I am HOME.