Faith Reflections,  My Life

Rafting Ruminations

On Saturday I did something that surprised some people who know me well. I went rafting. For a second time.
The first time was over 15 years ago and it didn’t go very well. I wrote about it once but to sum things up, I nearly drowned when my raft flipped in some rapids on the Snake River in Wyoming and I got trapped under the raft, unable to surface to get air. As you can tell, I survived. OR there is internet in heaven. Something that must be true based on the amount of joy we feel when we find free wireless. Heaven must be one big hotspot.

Some of our crew rafting on the Clear Creek.
Some of our crew rafting on the Clear Creek in Idaho Springs, Colorado.

Anyway, I made a vow to eventually get back in the boat and I did – literally. The time came on Saturday with my youth group in Colorado on the Clear Creek in Idaho Springs. The fact that 43 people whom I love dearly were going meant I couldn’t stay behind. I needed to be with them. I’ll be honest. Part of my thinking was the captain must go down with the ship. Morbid thought, I know, but if something was going to happen, I could never live with myself if I was on the shore or on the bus in a fetal position sucking my thumb. The reality was I knew although there are always risks, this was a safe, beginner CREEK and odds were very slim that anything serious would happen.
And it didn’t. The only serious thing that happened was that we had some serious fun. The youth LOVED it. It was a beautiful day, a great adventure and a fun time as a youth family.
I survived it and enjoyed myself except for one brief panic attack during a splash fight. My youth excel at splashing and I took a little too much water consistently to the face and had to cry for a truce. And by cry, I mean, literal cry. That might have gone unnoticed due to all the water already on my face but my wide-eyed look of terror and shallow breathing gave me away. After a few minutes, I got it together, breathed deep and finished it out. It was a good thing my shorts were already wet, too, so other things went unnoticed.
I learned something really valuable about trust on that 90 minute ride down Clear Creek. Trust had a name. It’s name was Gabe.
Gabe was blond, bronzed, full of charm and our guide. He wasn’t just any guide. He was the head guide for all our rafts. I understood that to mean he was like the quarterback on a football team or William Wallace in Braveheart. If Gabe wore a kilt to raft in, not only would no one make fun of him, they’d all be wearing kilts by lunchtime and REI would be selling rafting kilts a day later. He was confident, in charge and he was guiding my boat.
And I trusted him. If he yelled, FORWARD ONE, I rowed FORWARD ONE.  If he yelled, LEFT BACK TWO, I sat there. Because when I held up my hands and made the little “L” sign with my left hand, it reminded me I was sitting on the right side. That meant I sat there whenever Gabe yelled “LEFT”.  I trusted Gabe from the beginning but my trust grew exponentially as he maneuvered us through tight channels and around imposing boulders. Even when it looked like we weren’t going to make it or that Gabe should have yelled FORWARD THREE instead of FORWARD ONE, I trusted him. And he was right.
As I was floating down the creek, I thought about how I was trusting Braveheart Gabe more than I trust God. 
I question God a lot. He’ll yell FORWARD ONE and I’ll row BACK TWO. God will tell me to stop paddling and let Him steer us along the current and I’ll stick my big ‘ol oar in anyway and get us off course. Now we are going downstream backwards until I admit I don’t know what I’m doing and let God straighten us out again.
Gabe was there in the flesh. It was a 90 minute ride on an inflatable. Even with the possibility of death accompanied with tremendous fear from a bad past experience, it was easier for me to trust this stranger who didn’t know me from Adam for a short period of time than it is for me to trust a God who has been faithful for generation after generation. A God who was here in the flesh. A God who has experienced the certainty of death and has defeated it. A God who calls me His beloved.
Yet, I struggle to trust Him. 
For someone who struggles to trust others, I’ll gladly admit that it felt great to relinquish control to Gabe. It was refreshing not to feel like I had to be in charge or to know what to do. I listened. I obeyed. I enjoyed the ride. I think one of the biggest motivations that I had for letting go was that I knew how very little I knew about rafting. Gabe was the expert. I was not. Gabe knew this creek. Every rock. Every current. All I could see was what was right in front of me. And it was only for 90 minutes. Not a lifetime.
I tend to forget that God knows more than me. That might be a good place to start in trusting Him more. Maybe picturing Him in Chacos will help too.
Is it hard for you to trust God? If not, please let the rest of the class know your secret. For the other 99% that are honest, how do you practice trusting God? What encourages you to follow His lead rather than take the lead?


  • Jess Holmes

    I found this post to be very inspiring! I recently went on a West Virginia rafting trip with my family, and I experienced a lot of anxiety about something going wrong. At the end of the day, I’m so glad I did it anyway. Thanks for sharing your story!

  • Valerie Lueckenhoff Anderson

    Oh Melissa – periodically you have a post that just screams at me….
    “I question God a lot. He’ll yell FORWARD ONE and I’ll row BACK TWO. God
    will tell me to stop paddling and let Him steer us along the current and
    I’ll stick my big ‘ol oar in anyway and get us off course. Now we are
    going downstream backwards until I admit I don’t know what I’m doing and
    let God straighten us out again.”
    Letting go and trusting fully is unbelievably challenging – especially to a person who insists on being in control. It’s an ongoing struggle…but God is determined to win (and I really appreciate that.) :0)

    • Melissa Hatfield

      Thanks for posting, Valerie, and I totally understand. I have a thing for control as well. God and I wrestle a lot over this but as you said, God usually wins and I’m grateful when he does. But I’m hoping to get to where we don’t have to fight over control as much as we have. One day at a time. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Valerie!

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