October 22, 2013


For me, water is welcomed in two forms: from a glass to drink andfrom the sky in a light rainfall. Otherwise, water is to be revered—watched from a safe distance but never trifled with. Even a brief wade along the beach is to be taken with great caution.

The boarding school I attended was right along a large river, and every year there was a canoe trip. I began attending this school in my junior year of high school, and so that was my first year as a participant in this mandatory excursion. Coincidentally, that was also the first time that particular river had flooded in nearly two decades. Knowing this, I was extremely hesitant to go, but was reassured that all would be well. The flooding had supposedly subsided enough for the trip to be considered safe.

So with great trepidation, I climbed into a canoe with three other girls. The trip was going well enough at first. We were flipped (on purpose, mind you, because apparently that was part of the “fun”), and we collided with a tree, but managed only minor scrapes and bruises. But about an hour into the trip, when we were in pretty deep water, another crew of “flippers” approached us. I begged them not to do it, but the terror in my eyes was ignored.

Disoriented and taking in a lot of water, I struggled to find something to grab on to. But as I tried to surface, I found that I had ended up underneath the branches of a hanging tree. In my panic I could not figure out how to get from underneath it, and I couldn’t get air. Other students were passing me as I flailed my arms, trying to scream for help. Finally someone noticed my distress and yelled, “Janelle, remember what they told us! Just put your legs up; you’ll float to a place where you can stand.” At first I thought that if I did I would most certainly drown, but I knew I had to try. So with all my strength I pushed out from under the branches and held my legs out in front of me. To my great joy, my canoe mates were only a few feet away. Within seconds I stood and was able to catch my breath.

Our lives are in a constant state of motion. Work, family, finances, and relationships can make us feel as if we’re weighted down—as if we’re gasping for air with no chance for release. We can get so wrapped up in our mistakes and sins that maybe we think there is no way out. If I hadn’t been reminded of how easy it was to find safety, my own anxiety might’ve caused me more harm. Jesus has given us basic instructions in His Word on how to catch our breaths, on how to rest in Him and find peace. We never have to struggle alone—He’s always waiting, just within our grasp, to lift us from the burden of our despair.