The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


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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