I had a strong drink that night, and I almost never drink.
I didn’t sleep.
I tossed and turned, thinking about life and death and responsibility.
The teenagers had run ahead of us and were having a blast floating down the river. The rest of us—three adult women, two toddlers—put our inner tubes in without thinking much about it. We were lemmings, putting in where everyone else was putting in, just above a small waterfall. I had 2-year-old Isabella on my lap and an inner tube with a back rest to its seat. I thought the back rest would make us comfy, but in reality it kept me from being able to balance our weight backward. Just a few feet down the river, we met the small drop.
A young man stood on a nearby rock, and as we went over the falls, he told me, “Hold onto her.” Immediately thankful, I grabbed the lower strap on Isabella’s life vest—the kind that had the strap between her legs.
Suddenly, we were upside down in the water, and we weren’t popping up. I remembered from other rafting adventures to start kicking. I kicked and kicked and kicked. I held tight to Isabella’s strap, so I only had one arm free to stroke. We remained upside down underwater.
I remember thinking how yellow everything looked—the water, the river bottom, the rocks. Later I realized my brown sunglasses had colored my view. And then I realized I was not going to be able to hold my breath much longer. I had a very conscious, deliberate thought that if I got to the point where I couldn’t hold my breath anymore, I was going to need to let go of Isabella’s strap and let her bob up for air and float down the rocky river unattended.
I was still underwater, about to let go of Isabella, when we turned upright. We gasped for air. I turned Isabella around so she could see me, and we cried.
Her mom and sister had also flipped, but they had turned upright right away. We traded girls so mommy could hug Isabella, or maybe to relieve me because I was a wreck. Now I had Alyssa, age 3, in my arms. We spotted our inner tubes down the river on the opposite bank, so we walked downstream toward them, but we were on the other side of the river and needed to cross to reach them.
A man and his teenage son had stopped to help us. They had been the ones to catch our inner tubes and get them to shore. They helped the girls’ mom and Isabella cross the river to the inner tubes.
I knew I couldn’t carry Alyssa across. The current was strong, the rocks were slippery, and I was shaking inside and out.
The dad crossed back over to Alyssa and me. He held out his arms to Alyssa. At this point in Alyssa’s young life, she had a palpable fear of men. She would quiver and hide from even the softest and gentlest of men. And this man? This man was big, burly, fully tattooed—and the kindest man ever to take time out from his afternoon on the river to help us in our moment of distress.
For Alyssa to get across safely, she had to release from me and go into this man’s arms. Now she was the one shaking.
When I remembered this story the other day, the strangest thought crossed my mind: Is this how it feels to trust Jesus as Savior and Lord of one’s life? Does he look frightening to most people? Does he make you shake uncomfortably? Has your picture of him been tainted by the people who say they trust in him? Have those people been judgmental, rude, hypocritical, uncaring?
We who trust Jesus owe you an apology.
Can you look past that to Jesus’ kind heart? He is not the judgmental, rude, hypocritical, uncaring one. Instead, he stands, arms outstretched, ready to carry you across to a safe shore.
I looked Alyssa square in the eye, steadied my voice, and told her, “You have to go with him.” Even in her fear, she understood. There was no other way.
She released her grip on me and let the man take her in his strong arms. He carried her securely to the other side and set her safely on shore. I stumbled along after them, slipping unsteadily over the rocks.
I remain immensely grateful to that man and his son, who gave up a good amount of their time on the water to help us. I am grateful for life and for lessons learned. (Don’t be a lemming!) I have not missed that the day could have turned out very differently.
To what are you holding tightly? Are you ready to release and let Jesus carry you? I struggle with this, too. For me, the struggle is with releasing my worries and concerns to him. Life is so heavy sometimes. Let’s together release and let Jesus take us in his arms and carry us to a safer shore.
Christine Drews loves spending time in God’s Word and noticing God’s hand at work. She telecommutes as a senior developmental editor for a small publishing house. In her spare time she enjoys gardening, bicycling, sports spectating, and influencing the children in her life.
This post is one of a continued series, “Growing in Trust”. The first post in the series is here, and one of Chris’ favorite stories about seeing God at work is in this post.