The River Analogy

My father grew up on a farm and was a hard worker. As a young man, he employed his wiry strength several summers by working for river guides, until eventually he became one himself. We have seen the unbelievable pictures taken of him, a buff, sun-tanned specimen of manhood. He ran the Colorado River, the Yampa, the Green and the Snake River. One summer he was the guide and cook on the Colorado River for a group of scientists who documented and took pictures of what would soon be covered by the Glenn Canyon Dam, creating Lake Powell.

In my youth, several times, my father took a large group of us from our church on 4-6 day river rafting trips. There was never any question, I always wanted to go in my dad’s boat. None of the other boats, even the bigger ones with more men, could maneuver as well to both catch the greatest thrill the rapids had to offer and to keep everyone and everything in the boat at the same time. Often, even the bigger boats would get swamped or loose people and things over-board. Never my dad’s boat – ever! Even though sometimes there were more people and there was more action on some of the other boats, I never wanted to be on another – especially going through the rapids. My dad would always scout out the bigger rapids with the other men before running them. Though it rarely happened on our trips, if the river was running in a dangerous way, he would encourage only the most skilled to navigate the boats through while the rest of us walked around. When people didn’t take his advice, they always paid a heavy price – though thankfully never in lives lost. In truth it terrified me to think of going through the rapids with anyone else; while at the same time I felt great anticipation at the prospect of going through each of the ones that we did with my dad. I have great memories of shooting mammoth waves in roller coaster fashion with him at the helm.

These are the roots of the river analogy I’ve been using. As you can see, I learned something else from these experiences. I learned about being able to trust an all-wise, powerful, loving Father God, because of my faithful father. It is easier to trust God to help me navigate whatever adventures He has planned for my life. I know I can enjoy all life has to offer without spiritual harm as long as I am in His boat. Nevertheless, I’d better admit that despite all I know about my Father and being in His boat, sometimes I let my focus wander to the threatening waves and grow fearful; or worse, I begin to glory in the fact that I am shooting the rapids in fine fashion, without acknowledging God at the helm and oars; and either way I forget how He told me to hang on; and I fall out of the boat in the rapids. At these times especially, I am glad for His unfailing love and grace. For usually as soon as I cry out, sometimes even before I do, though sometimes he lets me swim awhile, depending on my attitude; He will grab my hand to pull me back in. And there I am, glad to be back in the boat, once more safe and sound in the care of the Master, looking forward again to whatever He has for me; one day, one bend in the river at a time.


One thought on “The River Analogy

  1. I love this story of how your dad took you rafting on the river! Growing up with an amazing and adventurous father myself, I understand the thrill and delight of being protected in a dangerous situation. Your post helped me to realize that some of my child-like trust in God is because of my trust in my earthly father. It’s amazing how God uses human relationships to teach us more about Himself. 🙂


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