Title Our Authors

White Water

By Rick Iekel

It was May, and the gray rushing water looked ominous. At age 55, I was eldest of several attending a beginner's class in white water kayaking. The lesson began as we paddled in and out of the swift current testing the stream's power. It was there I rolled my kayak, becoming the first to experience the water's frosty grip. Minutes later, I waited for my turn through the first set of rapids focused on the white froth funneling between two massive boulders. Then, paddling into the stream, I took aim. Alternately bracing and stroking, I steered between the rocks. On the other side, wet and still upright, I laughed for joy.

The second challenge loomed ahead, ready to swallow each of us, one at a time. "Here the river is literally coming back at you," our instructor explained. "You need to hit it straight on." My turn came. I didn't. Hurled into fast rolling water, I bumped my way down the river bed until, cold and tired, I reached the shore.

A scenic bend in the river offered time to re-energize. But, still shaken, I found the next stretch of bubbling fury exhausting.  At its end, while I rested before entering a narrow passage leading to the rest of the day, our leader studied my ashen face. Paddling next to me, he suggested, "There's no turning back from here. Maybe you should call it quits." Reluctantly, I had to agree. Little did I know the real adventure still lay ahead.

To exit the river bottom, two guides in a canoe paddled upstream while I sat, dispirited, in my tethered kayak. The adjacent cliff stood sheer and tall. Without warning, the angry water seized my kayak's bow. In the time it takes to catch one's breath, I was tossed back into the foam and riding helplessly away from my companions. I had no fear of drowning. I knew I wouldn't freeze. But, mere inches away from the cliff, I groped in vain for some small outcropping while my feet searched the river's bottom for a foothold. Neither could be found. Unsuccessful, I abandoned these meager efforts and turned my attention to God. I mouthed, "God, I need your help – and I need it RIGHT NOW." One foot struck a rock and I pushed toward the cliff. My hand grasped a fragment of shale. Fingers wrapped around it with unnatural strength. Like Spiderman, I was suddenly clinging to the wall. I would, I decided, take no further action. I would merely hang there until . . . well, I didn't quite know.

Minutes ticked by while my guides maneuvered their canoe beside me. There, in the frothing current, they encouraged me to loosen my grip, their calm reassurance easing the transition. On that lesson-filled day, I learned how to maneuver a kayak in raging water, a lesson put to good use later that summer. I also learned to appreciate the generous efforts of two talented individuals who risked their lives for another. But, the greatest lesson was to realize that God surely does provide when we seek and trust in His presence. My call for His help, "… and I need it RIGHT NOW" was an act of faith. In God's hands, I was depending solely on God's next move.

 

 

 

 

 

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