Around the Bend

Posted: June 2, 2012 in Uncategorized
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I like float trips down beautiful moving water. For me, it has to do with becoming one with the river, communing with the wildlife, and sensing the unity of floating pilgrims if, that is, you’re not going it alone. Our church youth group headed downstream yesterday and I was one of the merry band.

The day was beautiful – partly sunny and cool – and the Current River was not overpopulated with human kind. The journey was mostly uneventful until one particular tight turn in the river. That was memorable. Let’s call it Devil’s Bend.

As such hazards go, trees and debris extend out into the river in such a way that the current draws you directly into it all. That often spells a spill. And so it was, that we capsized then and there, as did many of the canoes following us. In and of itself, such an occurrence does not spell a disaster; gather up your things, stay with the boat until you can unswamp it and get waterworthy again.

No, the hard part comes with what is unseen. The most difficult challenge of negotiating such a spot is found in its unseen dimensions. For me the unseen thing was a submerged stump, and as I capsized my ribs became intimately acquainted with it. Ouchy. Take the wind out of you ouchy. Think you broke your ribs ouchy.

Happily, the end of that story is a good one. Rest, Ibuprofen and an elastic wrap pretty well took care of it. And time, of course.

Known obstacles provide the advantage of forewarning. They may still be difficult, to be sure, and stretch you to your limits. But the concealed obstacles slap you silly as you are unaware and unprepared. In a moment your life is turned upside down. The current sweeps you across painful objects. Concealed obstacles have the advantage of surprise, and they don’t waste a bit of it.

When that happens, and it will, the rule book changes. If you have never felt especially good at improvisation, you had best let go of that inhibition. All of the variables and relative chaos surface with one question: Now how will you respond? It’s not as though you have the luxury to debate whether it is fair, could have been avoided or if others have encountered the same predicament before. Those ruminations are legitimate, but come later. Right now, hanging horizontal in the stream, with as many unknowns as knowns,  one must decide and act.

Those concealed obstacles destroy some people. They make others stronger. And almost everyone is changed by them, in one way or the other. Whether they be enormous health challenges, a shift in employment, or a personal crisis, the river not only changes our situation but changes us. And it’s not all bad, if you survive it, that is.

Life is not for sissies. That much we know. But for each hidden obstacle that threatens to undo us, there are a thousand glints of beauty that have the potential to melt the ice crystals clinging to the underside of our hearts. Keep on the lookout for those, too. They are also frequently hidden from view, waiting to knock us out of our boats, strike us with grace, and take us where we never imagined we would go.

  1. Sam Wright says:

    Well said Tim. For me, being knocked out of a boat and landing on a stump is easier to deal with than being knocked from my metaphorical boat and hitting my metaphorical stump. Bruised ribs sure heal quicker then the bruised heart or mind.

  2. Jan Coffman says:

    “If only we could see the endless string of consequences that result from our smallest actions. But we can’t know better until knowing better is useless.”
    ― John Green, Looking for Alaska

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