Lessons from the River

I recently floated (in an inner tube) Montana's beautiful Stillwater River with friends. That's me, waving my arms triumphantly in the picture. I learned many wonderful lessons which I promised God, if I survived the harrowing parts of the float, I would share with others. So, here goes...

Lesson #1. Names aren't always accurate.  For example, the Stillwater River isn't "still." Deeper lesson:  Be aware of false labels.  People may be labeled unkindly, like lazy, bitter, loud, angry.  Get to know them anyway and don't accept others' labels.  Always give people the benefit of the doubt!

Lesson #2. Sometimes it's OK to act like you're 19 when you're 59.  Singing TV theme songs while riding in the back of a pickup truck on a country road to the river put-in is a blast! Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children..." (Matthew 18:3). Deeper lesson: Safety first!  Believe me, this was a lot safer than what came next! 

Lesson #3.  It's always easier, while tubing down a river, if you can see where you're going and anticipate what's coming up, but it isn't always possible. Sometimes, you'll be floating backwards and things will sneak up on you and hit you. When that happens, try to be light, breezy and buoyant and let the current carry you. The river knows where to go. Deeper lesson:  Despite your best efforts you can't prevent difficulties from hitting you from behind.  Best to try and relax and allow God to carry you through the rough patch. Go with the flow!

Lesson #4. If you get in a tight or difficult situation, like losing your inner tube in swift current, find something stable and hang on! You may need to let go of unnecessary stuff, like a shoe or hat (or God-forbid, your shorts!), but hang onto what is stable and secure, like a tree branch. Deeper lesson:  Lose the useless, like harsh judgments or bitter resentments and hang onto what is stable and secure, your faith, good friends, those you love.

 Lesson #5.  There may be times the river is just too swift, too scary and too everything and you need someone else to "fish" you out (sorry, couldn't resist). We are often so independent and sure-footed we think we can make it on our own, but we cannot.  Accept the help of others! Deeper lesson: People who need people are the luckiest people in the world. It's OK to admit you need help. In Jesus' story about the paralytic on the mat, his friends lower him to be near Jesus.  We all take turns being on the mat and taking a corner of the mat to help someone else.

Lesson #6. And, just as important--watch out for times we may be called to help others.  Our eyes and ears must be open to the needs of others...they may be calling for help quietly, or the wind may be carrying the sound of their voice downstream.  Be aware of others floating with you; watch and listen for how they are doing.  Deeper lesson:  Others may be quiet in asking for help, or they may not say anything at all but still need help.  Keep vigilant watch and always be willing and ready to help strangers and friends alike.

And, finally, the last lesson of the river:

Lesson #7.  Wear life jackets!  Have awe and respect for God's creation.  It is beautiful, but also powerful and unpredictable. Honor it with care!  Deeper lesson:  Be safe in other areas too...wear seat belts, look both ways when crossing the street, get a designated driver, don't send money to people who say you've won a cruise.  Life is a precious gift, treasure every minute and live it to the fullest!

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