I went river tubing in the Chattahoochee this morning! It was tons of fun, a bit tiring, but definitely worth it! As I was floating on down the river, I got to some serious thinking. Leave it to me to think of a dozen parallels between river tubing and the Christian life. Prepare yourself for some intense metaphors.
It takes some effort. Paddling my way down a river took quite a bit of effort. Because the river wasn’t moving, my family and I had to keep on paddling so we wouldn’t remain stuck in the same spot. As I realized how much work it was taking to actually get somewhere, I thought of how we must continuously work to continue down the right path in our walk of faith. Just like paddling is essential for progress, so is daily prayer and diving into God’s Word. If we’re not putting enough effort into building our faith and relationship with Jesus, we’ll end up getting nowhere.
It’s not a competition. My family was the first to finish our tubing experience. We were paddling hard, putting a lot of effort into it, and striving to reach the end. I kept looking back and realizing how far ahead we were compared to the rest of the families calmly floating down the river. At the end, I realized that even though we finished first, everyone else was enjoying themselves too. Finishing first didn’t mean we had any more fun than the rest of the crew. It didn’t mean that we were better and more skilled than the rest either. Pondering on this reminded me of a mistake that a lot of people make. They think of life as a competition. They want the luxuries of life, they want to make more money, they want to live extravagantly and be the talk of the town. Unfortunately, when people become too focused on climbing up the ladder of success, they’ll most likely end up wasting their lives without experiencing the true enjoyment that comes from loving every moment of life and fulfilling the purpose we’ve been given here on earth. Like that one Miley Cyrus song that people either absolutely love or absolutely hate, “There’s always gonna be another mountain, I’m always gonna wanna make it move. Always gonna be an uphill battle, sometimes I’m gonna have to lose. Ain’t about how fast I get there, ain’t about what’s waitin’ on the other side. It’s the climb.” Instead of rushing to get to the end first, I simply enjoyed the ride. We all had a blast and that’s what really matters.
Patience is a virtue. Two hours of floating down a river. To some, that sounds simply amazing. To others, that doesn’t sound appealing at all. In my opinion, the people who would most likely enjoy river tubing down a slow and steady river are the ones who’ve somewhat mastered the art of waiting. In this twenty-first century, people are always in a hurry. They’re always trying to get somewhere. I’d honestly like to see how busy New Yorkers deal with a two-hour float down the Chattahoochee. I believe that every now and then, we need to all just be still. We need to allow ourselves to forget about what’s going on, forget about the things we’re rushing to get done, forget about the long wait or the amount of time we’re spending. Patience is something we need to all obtain. Without it, life just isn’t as enjoyable or fully appreciated. When we stop worrying or rushing around everywhere, we are letting ourselves to just be. And it feels great.
Things may get a bit foggy. There was fog- a lot of fog. When we started out on the river, we couldn’t see what was up ahead at all. If there was a bunch of rocks or a brick wall or a waterfall coming up, we wouldn’t have been able to tell you. There really wasn’t anything we could do except ride through it. Not knowing what was in front of us was a bit intense, but as you can see, we made it out safely. When you really think about it, a lot of us get worried and anxious when we’re faced with foggy areas in our lives. Sometimes we’re put in situations where we honestly have no idea what’s coming. It’s times like those when we need to stand firm in our trust in God. While we may not be able to see past three feet ahead of us, God sees the whole picture. He knows where we’re going. Instead of fretting or losing faith, it’s important to remind ourselves that the fog doesn’t last forever. Eventually, all things will be revealed.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Sticking together is essential. When my family and I started on down the river, we got separated. I’m not the most skilled paddler in the world, so of course I got stuck. My dad and sister had to come fetch me. We then attached our tubes together to prevent being separated a second time. We didn’t know how dangerous this river could get and we wanted to make sure we’d have each other in case something went wrong. Just like it was important for my family to stick together, it’s important for Christian believers to stick together too. In a world full of chaos and sin, we are all faced with sin and temptation. If we support and help each other, though, getting out of a difficult situation isn’t as difficult as it would be if we were alone. By sticking together, we enable ourselves to stand firm in our faith and also encourage others to do the same. We need each other.
Sometimes we just need a wake-up call. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that the water was so cold, it felt like I was submerging my body into a bucket of ice. Thank God my tube had a bottom! I don’t think my butt would’ve lasted in that freezing water very long. After a while of floating, my dad thought it’d be funny to splash me in the back. Well, it wasn’t. It was terribly cold. I got to thinking about how insane it’d be if this water was dumped on someone while they were sleeping. Some wake-up call, huh? I occasionally have to remind myself that not all wake-up calls are pleasant. When I lose sight of what’s really important or veer off the track God wants me to be on, I need a bit more than a gentle push in the right direction. I need a slap in the face. I can recall several times when I’ve felt like I was punched in the stomach after realizing how lost and wrong I was, and I know I’m not the only one who’s felt this way. Some time or other, we’re all going to need a bucket of ice cold water dumped on her head. It probably won’t be pleasant, but we need to still be grateful for the truth that hurts. God loves us so much, He’s willing to do whatever it takes to bring us back to Him. That is definitely something we should never ignore or forget.
We are provided with a way out. If I were to fall out of my tube and I was unable to swim, I’d be thoroughly thankful for my life jacket. In case I found myself in a sticky situation, I could put my trust in that life jacket to keep me afloat. This is something that life jackets and God have in common. When I put my trust in God, I’m able to overcome any struggles I’m facing. He never gives us too much to handle.
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape, so that you are able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Be prepared for battle. Before I left the house this morning, I made sure I applied plenty of sunscreen. I put on an old pair of water shoes and comfortable clothing. I took off my valuable jewelry and had my bathing suit on as well. By the looks of me, you could tell I was ready. Just like there’s certain things you should put on when you’re preparing to go tubing down a river, there are certain things we should be equipped with when preparing to live a life for God and face a world that does the complete opposite. We are told to put on the armor of God.
“Put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, which which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (Ephesians 6:13-17)
Our Father will lead us through. I applaud my dad for doing the majority of the paddling down the river today. Without him, I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere. This is how our Daddy up in heaven takes care of us too. Because He is stronger, because He is greater, and because His love for us exceeds by far what we can even comprehend, our Father guides us to the right path and helps us stay on track. He does most of the work, He provides us with what we need. We just need to put our trust in Him. When we give up on trying to do things our own way and allow His Spirit to work through us, amazing things will happen. He will shape our desires, give us the courage we need, and prepare us for whatever is ahead.
“I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
I think all of these metaphors that tie river tubing and the Christian life together are essential truths. We all need to be reminded of these time and time again. As simple of an activity as river tubing is, I felt like God was showing me things through different eyes. I’ve been tubing a few times before but I never truly stopped to realize the beauty of it like I did today. “Life is like a river…tubing.”