The Gospel reading at Mass yesterday was about the apostles being frightened during a storm in their boat. Jesus uttered that well known phrase, “Oh ye of little faith.”
How little my own faith was six years ago when my husband, Mike and I were embarking on a new path in life. He was being downsized from his job, my job was only minimum wage and we had just started a family business we hoped would help even out our finances.
We had been planning a family trip to Colorado Springs to go hiking, sightseeing and whitewater rafting. Despite what seemed our impending financial doom or at least it was going to be very questionable, we decided that making family memories superseded any financial woes. Mike and I have a way of looking at things like this. Memories can never been recreated when the kids are young so our credit cards may be a little full, but we never regret the fun we have had on vacations with our kids.
On the third day of our Colorado adventure we headed two hours west of Colorado Springs to Buena Vista to the Arkansas River. For those of you who have ever gone rafting down a cold mountain river, you’ll understand what we were going to face. But WE didn’t know what we were facing. We had seen pictures, watch videos on television. It looked like fun, like adventure and that was what our family needed this summer, some adventure to get our minds off worries.
First we began early in the morning at the barn where the rafting company had their headquarters and signing release forms. It was then I had my first twinge of lack of faith. While signing a form for each of the kids, Mike and myself, I noticed the disclaimer, “not responsible for life threatening injuries or death” as part of the contract. If you have ever been on a roller coaster and felt that sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach just as you crested the hill at the top of the coaster and you see the sheer drop you are about to make you’ll understand the feeling I had at that moment. I truly hadn’t realized there was this much risk to myself much less to my own children.
As I started to voice my doubt, the kids who were 19, 17 and 15 at the time looked at me like I was crazy. This was the mom who took them river tubing, climbing rocks, and other activities. I mean I was very protective and careful, but it seems I’m always involving us in some activity I did as a teenage which involved water, climbing or hitting each other in martial arts. I was tough and so were they. They weren’t scared of a little water. But deep down I was.
We rode in a bus to the put in point upstream all the while our guides explained rescue techniques, what happened if you fell in the water, lost your paddle and something about getting stuck under the raft. The windows were all open on the bus and squished into bus seats two by two with life jackets on it was hard to hear. I looked at my husband, “I can’t hear anything he is saying.” He shook his head and said, “Something about self rescue if you fall out of the raft, but I can’t hear very well either.” Another omen. All those times in school when I should have raised my hand and asked the teacher to repeat the directions, I should have raised my hand and asked the guide to talk louder.
We got to the river, got off the bus and helped carry our heavy rafts to the gorgeous Arkansas River. The first step into the water made me scream it was so cold! The girls and I got on the left side and Mike and Ryan sat across from us. The guide, whose name was Brian, called us girls “Team Estrogen." Brian thought he was a comedian. He was in his late twenties, loved the river, had graduated from college with an agricultural degree but decided the running the river was better than sitting in a field in the Midwest looking at corn weevils. He laughed and joked, made fun of us squealing at the cold river. We headed downstream practicing our paddling techniques. It was not easy. You sat on the side of the raft with your feet inside but your bum on the tube. And there were no seatbelts! So while digging into the water with your paddle you had to make sure you didn’t fall off the tube into the water.
On TV it always looked like it was easy to paddle, but we were sitting really high on the raft, the water was actually like two feet below us and you had to lean over to dig in with the paddle. It felt off balanced and precarious.
As we moved down river, our very colorful guide pointed out gold in the river, an old mine bridge which he said was good luck if you were able to reach up and hit with your paddle. While doing so, Mike’s paddle came down and bonked Laura on the head. Good luck?
The first of several rapids approached and we were ready. The boat dropped over a ledge of water and almost dumped all of us into the bottom of the boat. “Steady on!” Brian yelled, “Paddle!”
We paddled, like it made any difference. The rapids slammed the nose of the boat straight up in the air where your paddle got no purchase in the water. When you leaned over enough to catch water, the boat slammed back down into the water. The drop then almost dumped us out of the boat into the churning water.
We made it through several smaller rapids successfully and were proud of ourselves. Now Brian warned us, were the 7 Staircases, a series of rapids one right after the other. But hey, we were doing really well. Omen again.
As we rounded the curve, we skillfully missed hitting this ledge and slamming a head into that boulder. We bounced down several smaller rapids when suddenly we rounded a curve. My side of our raft dropped Laura and I fell out backwards over the side of the raft into the icy water. Ryan flew over my head and also fell out.
When Laura and I hit the water backwards, she fell on top of me. I went deep in the cold water with a gasp. I didn’t even see Ryan come flying out. I felt a huge weight on top of my shoulders and head and assuming it was Laura and began to push her up toward to surface. Trying hard not to panic all I could think about was getting her to safety. But I kept pushing and she was going nowhere. Running out of breath I opened my eyes for a split second knowing I could lose my contact lenses doing so. But all I could see was murky frothy water. I pushed up again and still got nowhere. Finally I decided I couldn’t do Laura any good if I passed out so I tried to head up and get air so I could pull her up with me. I hit something hard and unmovable. What the heck was that? I hit it again and again and got no where. It was then I realized I was stuck beneath the raft. I began to pull myself to one side, in a crablike walk trying not to panic, running out of breath. Finally I my hand came out from under the boat and suddenly something grasped my hand. Brian reached down and grabbed the shoulders of my life jacket and yanked me up. I saw my husband and Cait in the raft but no Ryan. I turned and saw Ryan in the water hanging onto the raft with one hand and the other holding on to his sister, Laura. Just as relief washed over me that everyone was safe, Brian yelled at me to swim for shore and quickly dropped me back in the water. “Swim?” I was coughing up river water and still trying to see. Relief turned to panic once more as I wondered how I would have the strength to help my two kids swim to shore. I looked to see both of them swimming hard already! I was never so proud of them!
We climbed up the rocky shore scraping our knees but glad to be safe. Brian came running across the rocks and helped me stand. As soon as he ascertained we were okay he laughed and gave us high fives. “You are official Arkansas River Rats! Way to go!” Mr. Good Time River Guide had gone from having fun to Mr. In-Charge of a Bad Situation back to Mr. Good Time again within minutes!
It wasn’t until we drove two hours back to our hotel, had dinner and got ready for bed that I thought about the events of that day. My husband and I had learned a huge lesson about trust that day. We learned to not only trust in our guide, who that day was Brian but to begin trusting our life guide, the Lord, a little more. Trusting in Him through the storms of our uncertain financial future was kind of like coming up for air and trusting our river guide knew what he was doing when he threw me back in the water and told me to swim. He knew what was best for me, for my family in the boat and my family in the water. If I had hung onto the side of the boat I risked being crushed by the rocks ahead. And Brian had to get back to paddling to steer the boat to safety. Clinging to our shrinking finances, and panicking about jobs wasn’t going to get us ahead either. We had to let go and explore new avenues and try building a business.
Trusting in Jesus even when what He is telling you doesn’t make sense at the time can be really hard. Like the apostles, the Lord is trying to build more faith in us. And that faith doesn’t come without some trust!