Tuesday October 3, 2023 From Practicing Extravagant Generosity: Daily Readings on the Grace of Giving
“Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.
Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed— that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way . . .”
— Hebrews 12:2,
Ever wonder why rafters and canoeists paddle while going downstream?
I’ve spent much time canoeing and kayaking over the years, but I learned about currents, rapids, and whitewater in Central America. While studying Spanish in Costa Rica, my sons and I took a weekend break and joined a raft trip on the Pacuare River. The rapids were posted as Level Three, but the river was swollen, and the ratings didn’t match U.S. measurements. Once we got on the water it felt like we were heading over Niagara Falls, over and over again, hour after hour, frequently finding ourselves flung out of the raft and struggling for our lives in the deep and dangerous currents. I don’t wish to repeat the experience anytime soon. The T-shirt my boys bought afterward read, “Remar o Morir!” Paddle or Die!
The guide sat at the back of the raft calling out instructions about which side to paddle on, and how intensely to do so. During a period of relative calm, as the river was propelling us down toward the next deathtrap, the guide told us to paddle gently but steadily. My son asked, “Why do we have to paddle when the river is pushing us downstream anyway?” He smiled and said, “The only way we have any control over the direction we are going is for us to be moving just a little faster than the current below us. So we have to paddle constantly, or else we just get pushed along out of control.” If we want to navigate with purpose and to control our direction rather than becoming a victim to forces beyond our control, we have to keep paddling. “Remar o Morir!”
We live in a whitewater world. Things change so rapidly—communications systems, the makeup of our communities, the tastes and habits of new generations, the expectations and values of congregations, the competing claims of a secular society for our hearts and minds. This is true in our personal and family lives as well—the phases and steps of a marriage, the transitions of our children, the heartbreaks and hopes, deaths and births, losses and gains, brokenness and reconciliation. Unceasing motion. We live fast-forward lives.
Life pushes us along, and sometimes there seems little we can do; we feel like victims, vulnerable and powerless. But we can’t stop paddling. We can’t stop learning, growing, changing, adapting, and giving our best. It’s by rethinking things, praying anew each day, and by constantly recommitting to the right things that we embrace God’s will for us so that we are able to navigate through the whitewater world. It’s by depending upon friends, knowing the water, and repeatedly practicing the disciplines that keep us connected to God that we remain strong. Life requires an agility of spirit, forward movement, effort, vision, and a keen awareness of the forces at work around us and how to use them for the purposes of Christ rather than become overwhelmed by them. Keep paddling!