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Lessons Learned on the River

It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps, but if there’s no one to help, tough! By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. (Eccl. 4:9-10,12, The Message)

One of the passions of my life is white water river rafting. Gather half a dozen or a dozen good friends, three to five inflatable rafts, lots of camping gear, and launch down a wild river through a scenic canyon. Run the rapids, float peacefully through the calm stretches, gaze in awe at the beautiful scenery and majestic wildlife. Camp under the stars, relax and visit with friends around a campfire. What a joyous life, free of the stresses and busyness of ‘civilized’ life, enjoying the best of God’s creation!

Running a big rapid in a small boat is a very spiritual experience. There are prayers of supplication upstream and prayers of thanksgiving downstream.

I’ve learned valuable life lessons on the river. A few examples:

  • Choose your companions carefully. They support and help you, and sometimes rescue you, and they provide endless camaraderie. But if even one of the crew is quarrelsome and cranky, it takes away a lot of the fun. And if one takes foolish chances, it can endanger all.

  • Pack everything you need. There is no convenience store on the river, and if your flashlight batteries die and you brought no spares, it will be a dark night. A little extra food is prudent. A map or guidebook is essential.

  • You can’t run the same rapid twice. The river flows only downstream, and you get only one chance at each rapid. You can’t go back and enjoy a good run a second time, or improve a poor run. Do your best each time.

  • Plan your route through the rapid before you enter it to avoid hazards. Once you are in the rapid, you just work to keep from swamping and have little opportunity to make changes in route. Even if you have run a rapid before, it is different each time. Often we land before a difficult rapid to scout the hazards and plan our approach.

These lessons apply to the rest of life beyond the river. The journey of life goes best if you take God as your constant guide and companion.

We will have companions on our journey through life; it is important to choose carefully those with whom you associate closely. The most important choice is your spouse. Of course, we help others regardless of their nature because all are children of God, but we don’t let those with bad principles decide our actions. Strong friendships are one of the greatest blessings of life, making our lives more successful and more enjoyable.

Preparation for life makes things turn out better. Good education as well as planning for life choices improves our prospects. Saving during earning years makes retirement more enjoyable. The Bible serves as our guidebook for making life choices.

Many of the experiences of life are one-time events. Try to live so that as you look back, you have no regrets. Appreciate your experiences, and don’t brood over missed opportunities. Treasure friendships and memories made along the way.

Perhaps the most important lesson is that despite long periods of smooth cruising, rough times will come to us all. It might be a medical diagnosis, loss of a job, the death of a loved one, but the crises are part of life. They will be more survivable if you are prepared to navigate through them. No one course fits all situations. Friends are more important than ever. The best preparation is to develop resilience through spiritual strength. Worship, Bible study, Christian service, all build the strength of character needed in difficult times.

Prayer: Gracious God, help me to enjoy the beauty of life’s journey, to develop strength in the calm stretches to support me in times of turbulence. Thank you for my friends that travel with me. Let me rely on your presence and strength at all times. In the name of our savior Jesus. Amen.

Bill Mankin

Ministry and Mission Coach

Wyoming Cluster

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