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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Hitting the water

I'm testing myself and my faith

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more intentional about challenging myself. So one afternoon last summer I found myself—somewhat like Peter asking Jesus to let him walk on the water—throwing myself off a raft into the Colorado River as it runs through the Grand Canyon. I was going to swim the next small rapid.

raftingI was in a life jacket, but I still had a moment of sheer panic when I hit that water. There are nice metaphors about Jesus being our pilot through “life’s tempestuous seas.” But I got a glimpse of what the “unknown waves” that old hymn (“Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me”; Evangelical Lutheran Worship, 755) talks about might really be like as my lungs constricted in the frigid water, which came over me faster than I could manage breaths.

As I finally swam to the raft, the boatman had to haul me up by my life jacket—I had no energy to save myself at that point. I had a new appreciation for Peter who, when walking on water, became frightened, began to sink and cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:24-34).

Sitting safely in church on Sunday mornings, I’m usually not forced to come face-to-face in an experiential way with my mortality or whether I truly believe God can and will care for me in all circumstances.

A weeklong raft trip brought me to that place of faith-testing each time I faced a steep rock wall to climb, a high thin ledge to traverse, a waterfall to leap over or a night of sleeping without a tent on the beach.

My raft trip did have many wonderful moments to it. There were also enough hard, even frightening, times to remind me that a faith in God’s love and protection must at times be tested if it’s to be more solid than the rock walls I swam by.


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