This past summer my fiance and I went kayaking with some friends up in Pennsylvania. Having a healthy fear of water as I do, I asked for a life jacket. Nervously I wobbled my way into the kayak, overwhelmed at the sheer expanse of the Susquehanna as it stretched before me. Shallow as it might have been, the wideness of the river was intimidating to me. And I wasn’t especially adept at the balancing act that keeping steady in a kayak takes, calling on core muscles to strike a balance. It all looks so seamless when someone else is doing it.
Soon enough we were out on the water, and little by little I relaxed as the river worked its charms on me. I could touch the bottom in most places with my paddle. Tempting as it was to paddle ahead, I stayed close to my friends, trusting they’d know how to bail me out if I hit a rough spot since they had ample experience to speak from.
As I approached a stretch of more rapid water, I wasn’t sure what to do. My friend, Kelly, called out, instructing me to paddle towards the ripple, rather than the smooth water. The rock was just beneath the water where the surface appeared flat. Had I followed my own instinct, I may have at least hit a snag or toppled over all together. I followed her advice and dug deep, paddling towards the current, into the ripple. The amateur kayaker in me was grateful someone else who knew what she was doing was with me. And in the moment immediately following the rush of uncertainty, I felt a sense of accomplishment.
Moving forward after a season which I will simply call “hard” is a mixed bag. I move towards good things. I have been blessed beyond measure with rich friendships that have carried me here, shielding me from total despair. And yet, I am still in process. Life isn’t at once all good or all bad. It is both and. In one breath I am grateful, and in the next I am breathing out, doing that sigh thing I’ve noticed I do as a quirky way of physically responding to the occasional weight of life.
As I thought about how my life is moving forward, I was reminded of that moment in the kayak. Any seasoned kayaker would probably be humored by the level of concern, downright fear I felt in that moment of decision, when I had to veer a certain way. Did I paddle towards the ripply water, to the place that appeared most unsteady and uncertain? Or did I paddle towards the glassy surface, smooth and inviting?
So many times I’ve been faced with that moment in my life these past few years. I am tired of conflict. I am tired and weary of decision-making and self-parenting, of veering towards what is best when it is at a cost to myself, my ego or my desires. But the beauty of paddling into the ripple is felt in the moment just after when all that grit it took to get through is done. And there is only peace and a deep sense of gratitude to have made it through.
Healing is just that. Both a noun and a verb, it’s an experience and a process. As tempting as it is to follow the current towards what appears easy or instinctively more alluring, it’s in paddling towards the ripple, in facing “the hard,” that we learn the most about ourselves, our capacity. We are wired for resilience. We can—you can–do hard.
So the next time you spot a ripple, don’t be afraid to face it. You got this. . . And God’s got you.