“Row! Keep rowing!” Randy’s voice boomed from the back of the canoe. With all the might my aching, sun-reddened arms could muster, I plunged the oar into the lively river.
Two days ago we had piled baggage of body, mind and spirit into the church van and headed off, with youth group in tow, to the Buffalo River. After seemingly endless loops around innumerable hills we were all anxious to get to the cabins.
“Don’t worry,” my husband had told me, “canoeing will be fun. Just do what I tell you to.”
“Sure,” I thought, “it’ll be a snap.”
Ha! Who was he kidding! My young handsome husband had been an athlete all of his life. I, on the other hand, the girl with the glasses and freckles, had been a lifelong bookworm. “But this time,” I assured myself,” it will be different. I will do what he taught me in church league softball (perish the thought!). I will focus, hustle, and hang tough! Yes sirree! I’ll make ‘im proud!”
And proud he was as I had successfully followed every command that my able ‘back seat Captain’ had given. I had forged ahead in my rowing duties helping to ensure a dry trip down the Buffalo, even sailing by others who had swamped. Of course, we very responsibly made sure the drenched ones were safe before we floated by. My husband pastor was well in charge as always, issuing both good advice and good natured teasing along with it. Yes, he was proud to still be sitting high and dry at almost the end of the canoe trip.
I had to admit, this was fun. I marveled at the scenic beauty, the roar and rush of the river, the scent of the great outdoors (no cow pastures, of course), and at the sheer excitement of the sport. Wow! What a thought! I was actually getting the hang of a sport! I could see it now. The adulation! The applause! I was becoming a canoeist!
“Row! Row! Don’t stop! Keep rowing!!”
Oh-oh, trouble! We were heading into a bend in the river, and the current was stronger than any we’d had before. I had been dreaming about my budding new identity as an athletic canoeist, and now, straight ahead loomed an embankment! My athletic mind froze and so did my heretofore faithful arms. “No use to fight it!” I thought as a wave of panic hit, “We’re gone!”
And with that thought, so we were. I remember the glare of the sun hitting my ‘deer in the headlights’ eyeballs as I upended. Floating was the only thing I had learned in swim class, but even that gave me no hope now. I was drowning and helpless as my spectacles were sucked up to the surface without me. This is it. I’m really gone…gone.
“Would you just stand up!”
What? Did I hear my husband’s voice? Is he dead too? Bubbles bobbled before me as I felt the upward pull.
My feet felt something solid. As I pushed I regained my balance and stood upright, emerging like the proverbial ‘drowned rat’. Slowly the realization came, “Wow! I’m alive! Alive!” ( I’d always had a flair for the dramatic.)
“Why in the world did you stop rowing!? We were almost there!”
Oops. Randy, also dripping wet, and more than a little un-amused, looked down at me, and in forced calmness said, “Here’s your glasses.”
Wet wire rims can sure be cold.
After plenty of ribbing from the youth group, a hot dog and smores feast, and the eventual quiet of teenagers sacked out in the cabins, the crickets and I sang our own song in the wee morning hours. They chirped, and I snored.
Now, more than a few years later, the youth group kids are grown and scattered, but my dear hubby is still respectably athletic, and I still have freckles and live with books, and spectacles. Time does march on though, a little too quickly at times. Someday we’ll reach the end of the river again, and I can imagine myself panicking at that point, just like before, struggling against what seems to be an ocean of endings. I won’t be surprised at all then to hear a familiar voice say, “Daughter, just stand up! It’s only three feet deep! And here’s your glasses.”
“We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that…we too may live a new life.” Romans 6:4 (NIV)
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