12 August 2014

The River

Last Friday I went camping and canoing with some of the scout from our congregation. We drove to Ocala to paddle a 7 mile stretch of the Silver and Ochlawaha rivers. It was a beautiful day, and the cool, clear, and peaceful river promised a nice trip.

Having some experience in a canoe, I was very confident. We had no difficulty managing the river, aside from the occasional collision with a tree or log extending into the water. About three hours into the five hour trip, the boys we were with became lodged on a log. We floated up behind them to bump their canoe forward.

We succeeded, but in the process came to rest parallel to the log, which extended straight across the river. Somehow our canoe was pushed upward a bit, and in second we had lost balance and fell into the water, tipping the canoe over.

In my last post, I wrote about control. In this canoe, I had some control. Our streamlined hull cut easily through the water, and our paddles gave us the ability to steer. The feeling of control these things provided evaporated when we hit the water.

The current quickly filled the canoe with water, and we were powerless to set it right. In fact, the canoe when from a sideways position to completely filling. At that point it turn completely upside-down and when under the log, emerging on the other side right-side-up, but totally swamped.

We gathered our things and passed them to the boys to place in their canoe. We then spent several minutes positioning ourselves on the log so that we could try and lift it out of the water. This was very difficult, as we had to manage the current, then pushing our bodies forward, and the extreme weight of the filled canoe. In time we tipped it enough to be mostly emptied so that we could continue our trip.

Even then, there was a small amount of water in the canoe, which made every shift in weight more extreme, increasing the potential for another tip into the water. When we could find another bank, we pulled the canoe out to empty it, finally able to continue as normal.

How quickly my confidence left me, when I was faced with the might and inexorable flow of this calm and placid river. It couldn't have been moving more than 1.5 or 2 mph, but the volume of the water was more than we could overcome, at least until we found a way to plant ourselves on more stable footing.

The security of the canoe was largely an illusion, and I won't soon forget that. It made me think of something that the prophet Lehi said to his wayward son Laman:

O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness!
1 Nephi 2:9

In life I am often that canoe. I rely on my own power and strength. I trust our technology and know-how, sometimes discounting the real power, which is in the river.

As Lehi urged Laman, I want to be the river. For me this means trusting in God, in His power, and in His constant and unwavering guidance. My own strengths, while perfectly adequate much of the time, will fail me if I don't recognize the power of the river. The river does not always impress, but it has the real power.

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