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Where’s The Bottom? God Knows

It doesn’t take a hydrologist to tell me the rivers and streams in our region are exceptionally high for even this time of year. The floods in February and recent weeks are grim reminders of how powerful and overwhelming water can be.

Just the other day, I was standing on the 14th tee at the Hidden Lakes golf course, east of Sandpoint. The high, very high, Pack River was flowing by. And I began to remember another river that was low, very low.

A dozen years ago, a friend and I took our teenage sons for an overnight camping trip. We set up camp at a campground on the Clearwater River, then drove up to Orofinio, Idaho, where we put our canoe into the river. It was late August, so the water level was really low.

On more than one occasion, my friend Dan and I had to relieve the canoe of our weight so it could float through a high spot in the river bed.

There were only a few spots in that long section of the river that were deep enough to allow us some serious canoe-paddling and floating. Until just above where our camp was located.

The campground was on a point of land that jutted out into the river, so the water began moving more swiftly through that narrower section. Plus, a fissure in the ground made the river bottom deeper than it had been just 50 yards upstream.

The deeper water and narrower river combined to make a mini-rapids.

We were having a great time paddling through the swift and swirling water until the water began to slosh inside the canoe. And stay there.

In a matter of moments, the canoe sank beneath the water’s surface, with the four of us foolishly trying to decide when to stop paddling. When we drifted out of the sunken canoe, it came back up to the surface.

Hanging onto the canoe, we tried to swim for shore, but the current kept taking us downstream. After some anxious, fearful moments, we realized we weren’t in real danger.

Just past the campground, the river widened again, this time into a good-sized inlet of calm water. With some effort, we did our best one-armed swim toward shore, dragging the canoe beside us.

A brief trip with long-term memories, for sure! Upon further reflection, I can see our trip as worth remembering for another reason. I’ve been reflecting on spiritual maturing as an uneven process. Part of that unevenness seems to happen when we settle for standing only on shallow spiritual ground, where we are more in control of what happens.

Dan and I had much more control of that canoe when we were walking beside it in the river. It was only when the water got faster and deeper that we experienced life out of our control, very limited though it was in that instance.

That faster water impressed our memories for years to come. It also reminded us that the preciousness of life doesn’t depend on what we do to control it, but what we do to move with it as best we can.

The cliche “let go and let God” can be obnoxious when spoken at the wrong time or in the wrong spirit. But it does contain a slice of truth. At some level, most of us are control freaks. So from time to time, we would do well to test this truth about God actually being in charge. It might even become a habit.

A friend is facing a potentially terminal disease. She knows she’s not in control. But she also knows her God will be with her whether the water is deep or shallow.

Of course, I also find it easier to “let go” when I’m confident that the God-in-charge is a radically welcoming God. This God is as not as fickle and vengeful as many folks are too ready to believe.

The God I know uses this ultimate in-chargeness in radically hospitable ways. I need that God! Which God do you need - deep-down, I mean - when your feet cannot stand on the bottom?

Standing only in the shallow water makes us shallow people. And God didn’t make us to live in the shallows of life.

That may be a safer place. But God knows the more abundant life is in the deeper, faster water where we can’t always touch the bottom. Where live the real adventures awaiting our souls. Come on in, the water’s fine! Just fine!


The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Paul Graves The Spokesman-Review