Psalms 120:1 — In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.
It was a time of high excitement for all, except me. We were on a bus headed to the whitewater rafting company that would be taking us into the water for a four-hour long trip down the rapids in West Virigina. My husband and I, along with the youth pastor of our church, had planned a mission trip with 28 young people. Everyone had worked hard to raise money for this trip. We had spent the week in rural Kentucky helping those in need. We painted, built handicap ramps and made general home improvements. The youth had worked hard. We wanted to take them camping, so we drove the group to West Virigina for the weekend.
Friday morning, the whole group was buzzing with excitement as we headed out for some fun. I had never been whitewater rafting before. I was worried about falling out of the boat and being pulled down the river at top speed. We prayed as a group before we left. I prayed on the bus ride over to the water’s edge. I asked the Lord to protect us, to keep us and to let everyone have a wonderful time in nature.
They put us in groups of eight, and we carried our rafts down to the water. The guide taught us what to do when he would say commands. I had a life jacket, helmet and my oar in hand which I thought would provide some safety. I know how to swim, so I was not worried about being able to swim to the raft if I fell out. I was concerned about how fast the water was flowing. I was super cautious to watch the guide the whole ride. I did everything he said. He was there to keep us safe. Ultimately, it was not the life jacket, the helmet, the guide, or the oar that could keep me safe — it was the Lord alone.
As we got in the water and headed out, the guide would tell us when we were coming to level one or two, even up to level five, to prepare us for how rough the water would be. We had been on the water for about 25-30 minutes when we came over a drop-off. The idea — not my idea of fun — was to go back to where we had dropped off and try to row back up the incline. They called it surfing. You could not possibly get back up over the drop-off, so your raft would slam back down, and a bunch of water would flow into the boat soaking everyone. The kids liked it. I did not. I kept praying silently for safety.
We had done this twice already and were waiting our turn to “surf” again. On the third time we tried to go up this drop-off, we slammed down and the next thing I knew I was out of the raft. I went over backwards into the water. It all happened so fast. I felt yanked out of the raft. I went into the water right where the water was rushing over the drop-off. I said, “Lord really? This was my worst fear... No Lord, please no!”
I remembered that the guide had said, “If anyone goes in, when you pop up swim over to the closest raft.” I held my breath to prevent taking in any more water than I already had. I waited. I prayed. I did not come up. Every time my head would start to come up to the surface, the water would push me back down and spin me in a circle.
It felt like being in a washing machine. I lost my bearings. I did not know what was up and what was down. I kept spinning in a circle. I was praying the whole time. I said, “Lord, my daughter and husband are going to watch me drown. I am scared Lord, very scared. I need you to help me. I can not hold my breath much longer. Please Lord, help me!”
This was honestly one of the scariest things I can picture facing. As soon as I said “Lord, help me,” I felt someone push me from behind. I popped up quite a distance from where I went in. I was gasping for air. I heard people screaming at me. I looked up and saw a raft. I kicked over to the raft. The guide said, “Climb into the raft.” I just looked at him. I did not have one bit of strength left. That water had been beating on me for what seemed like forever. They had to pull me into the raft. I lay on the bottom of the boat trying to recover. I thanked the Lord over and over for saving my life.
Once we were alone at lunch. My husband told me the guides were blowing whistles and yelling at each other, “Someone get her out of there now, she is going to drown!” He said they threw a life preserver, but I never saw it. It struck me how they could not save me. I could not save me. The Lord alone could save me.
They took my oar from me, placed me in the back of the raft next to the guide the rest of the trip down the river. I had to be bribed to even get back in the raft after lunch. I was grateful to be back on land and did not want to go bouncing down the river again. I prayed some more. We finally arrived back to our camp safely. The Lord had shown favor to me by saving my life. What love!
I do not deserve God’s mercy, grace or saving my life. Yet he sent His Son to save me from sin. He sent an angel to push me out of the water to safety. I am in awe of God and the love He constantly showers us with.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. (Psalms 34:17 ESV)
All scripture taken from the English Standard Version.