The Bad Place
My husband and I were missionaries in Africa early 2000-2003. We were so excited to plan a rafting adventure! Rather, he excitedly planned a rafting trip on the Nile River, while I was leery and fearful! I nearly drowned as a child, so it was natural apprehension. Being the good wife, I put a frightened smile on my face and off we went.
Typical, well-balanced rafts, carry 8 or more people. Our raft, including the guide, carried 5. Should that have been an indication of our day??? It wasn’t as if we could say, “We’ll wait and do it another day” as we had flown from Kenya to Uganda! We were at an extreme disadvantage with that, and that none of the four passengers had ever been rafting before.
With trepidation I carefully put my helmet on and tightened my life jacket. It was so tight for safety reasons, it was really hard to breathe. I felt trapped. We paddled for a few minutes to practice. He taught us how to hold onto the oar and the raft if we flipped, and how to climb back in the boat. In calm water, that is much easier to do! He called different terms like the obvious, “ROW HARDER!” and “GET DOWN!” (I excelled at the latter!) That was one he called most frequently because that meant we were either going to flip, or go into the rapid and come out properly in the boat on the other side, and he was trying to keep us safe. Did you know that guides have done this so often, they know if you are going to make it through the rapid or not? Did you know that they will flip you for your own safety? No. Me either.
So out of our 8 hour Nile River rafting adventure, we flipped 5 out of 10 times. Wait. He flipped us 5 out of 10 times. We made it through the level 2 & 3 rapids, but not the level 4’s or 5’s. Also unknown to me, because I was not aware much of the time being separated from the boat, and being rescued and brought back to the boat by my own personal kayak-er rescuer, that there were Nile Crocodiles on the banks as I sailed by crying and peeing my pants as my life passed before my eyes. I was also hit by branches and had red ants on my life jacket and in my hair. (On a good note, though I was unable to hold on to the raft, I did hold on to my paddle!)
At the end our long journey, there was one more optional level 6 rapid. Saved for the risk taking, professionals! It was called The Bad Place. I can hear you saying, “Don’t do it! Tara! Don’t do it!” That was what my heart and mind were saying as well! Believe me! One of the men said, “Man, I am not doing that! No way!” “I am going to sit this out!” It came down to me. Sammy and the other guy were game so I had a decision to make. Quit, or hit this rapid head on, knowing full well we weren’t going to make it through. I can honestly say that I had tears of fear dripping down my sun-blocked, sunburned cheeks. Not all weepy boohoo, just plain old fright, panic, horror and dread! My comment, which made my husband beam with pride was, “I didn’t come this far to quit. Let’s go.”
We got into the raft and as soon as we sat down, he pushed us off and yelled, “GET DOWN!” it was at that moment, I let go of my paddle because I was already under water. I was tossed, turned, scared and tumbling like a towel in a washing machine! I thought I was going to die. I couldn’t get to the surface. I couldn’t see the surface! Twisting, whirling, spiraling out of control, until I finally, I reached the end of the rapid. Sammy apparently was still under water, but popped up soon after I did and was already at the bank down river a bit smiling. I on the other hand, was breathless, hyperventilating and crying. I saw just a hand reached out saying, “I got you. You are ok.” One of my fellow rafters was there to help me out of the water.
Sammy and I walked up the hill with his arms around me. He said something like, “that was fun.” Or, “I am so proud of you!” or both. We arrived at the top of the hill, after a long day, to an awaiting celebration feast. In my heart I thanked God for my survival.
I can say with pride, “I Rafted The Nile River!”
Life is like rafting that river sometimes isn’t it? We are rafting along smoothly enjoying the ride, until He being the guide, sees things that we can’t and protects us by flipping our boat. Or circumstances like the life jacket, tiny red ants, or branches smacking or biting us, cause us great discomfort and pain. We begin flailing and tumbling in the rapids of life, and forget that God is always there.
He sends friends to give us a hand. He sends a way for us to get back in the boat. He never leaves us alone. Psalm 138:3 says, ” On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.” He hears us when we call. He gives us strength.
He equips us for “The Bad Places” in life and gives us the courage to go through them, even though we know going in, it is going to be hard and scary. Yet, we are able to say, “I didn’t come this far to quit.”
Lord, be with my friends who may be going into, or are already in The Bad Place. Please protect each one and bring them safely out the other side.
In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.