She is deceitful like Satan himself. Her curves sparkle in the sunlight like diamonds on fine jewelry. Her waves toss and caress like fresh linen on a breezy day. But beneath her surface, darkness waits to drag an innocent into her murky depths.
“We prefer the boat,” I grumbled. Friends had asked us to join them on a weekend retreat – a respite from the rigors of work and kids. I had agreed but the last thing I wanted to do was spend a weekend camping on some island in the middle of the river with only a hole in the ground for my personal use. My dreams of lounging by a pool at the nearest hotel faded with each stroke of the oar.
“Try to be a good sport about this.” My husband pushed back from the dock. Our friends had agreed to use the canoe while we took the old rowboat. Bob and Lisa were already twenty yards ahead of us. After an hour of gentle rocking, I was loathing my fate less and settled in with a good book.
“Do you want to take your turn at rowing?” Kevin rubbed his shoulders. I glanced at the motor – still idle– a reflection of myself.
“You’re doing fine.” Our friends rounded the bend in front of us. “Are you sure you know this river?” My husband had spent his entire childhood navigating this stretch of water. Although it had been years since he had been on it – he swore he could still pilot a craft down it any day. Our friends, on the other hand, had taken only two canoe lessons but declared they would have no trouble maneuvering the waters.
I let my fingers trail in the cool water. The river had risen with the recent rains and some branches sailed past.
“Hey – go wide to your left!” My husband’s shout jolted me from my reverie. “Paddle hard to your left!” he screamed. His muscles strained to pull our own boat to safety as he studied our friends’ progress.
A huge oak tree had grown across the river and now blocked the waterway. A narrow opening to the left provided the only way around. I dropped my book and grabbed my life preserver. We watched in horror as our friends struggled to paddle. Branches with gnarled joints threatened to pull them in.
“They’ll never make it.” Kevin’s words cut me to the core. What did he mean ‘they’ll never make it’? I felt helpless as we slowed the progress of our own boat to watch their plight unfold before us. Their canoe was no match for the strong currents. Without mercy – the river and her determined arms pulled them under. We had no choice but to force our boat around them to gain smoother water. My husband thrust the oars into my hands and prepared to jump in.
“Dear God, please save them,” I prayed as I scanned the river for a sign of life. Bob’s head broke the surface first but Lisa’s long thick hair caught in the branches. She struggled to stay above water until her husband reached her side and ripped her hair from the demon’s grip. Their provisions floated past and I saved what I could – dragging wet remains from the murky water.
The rocks provided the perfect setting to dry supplies, bodies and thoughts. Bob surveyed the damage to his wallet and studied his wet photos. “We could have been killed. Why did I ever think we could paddle a canoe on that river?”
I shivered in the setting sun - my warm bed a distant memory.
“We couldn’t have known about that tree, Bob. We don’t always know what lies ahead – because if we did - we probably wouldn’t try anything.” Kevin’s words struck a chord within my heart. I remembered the day we dynamited the mountainside to build our new home and how I had complained about the bad location. Now I loved our secluded homestead. The anguish of trying for years to be blessed with a child had been instantly erased at her birth. The face of our young daughter waiting for us at her Grandma’s brought tears to my eyes.
What if we had given in to our fears? What if we had let the unknown rob us of blessings waiting just around the bend – around the next curve – over the next wave?
I pulled out the shovel for my next adventure.
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