The Chattooga River, that famous river of the south. Every year, people flock to this river to experience whitewater rafting at its best. Though I’ve never floated it, I have rafted her two kindlier cousins—the Ocoee River and the Nantahala. I chose the Chattooga River as the setting for chapter one and two of my novel – The Guide. It is well known for its class four and five rapids, but it’s also known because portions of the movie Deliverance were filmed there. Starting in the hills of South Carolina, it meanders for over 50 miles, eventually spilling into Lake Tugaloo. My son and some friends have hiked the Bartram Trail which runs parallel with the river. Our hillbilly antennae were fully extended the entire trip. We made it through unscathed.
The thrill of rafting can make one’s heart almost leap from the chest. The action, the cold water, the adventurous rush—it’s a very pleasing experience. Falling out of the protective raft into the raging waters is another story. Then the trip takes on terrifying consequences. Heads can be crushed against boulders. Feet become tangled in rocks as the river’s strength takes control. Hydraulics may suck you down into the murky depths. This doesn’t happen often, but the possibility remains constant. Like most other adventures, we normally examine the laws of probability and find the benefit-to-risk ratio very high.
I’ve often compared life to a raging river. Laced with hidden dangers, temptations and trials, life carries us forward. Its force will not be denied. The unexpected occasionally leaps up, grabbing us from a secure perch. I experienced this back in 1988 when my 18-year-old brother left our lives because of Leukemia. I watched my parents endure our loss and witnessed a strong faith. Life often takes turns we don’t anticipate. Love those in your raft, for you never know what the next rapid might do.
I would never risk rafting down a river without a guide, but for years, I had navigated my life unguided. Guides know the river. They know when to tell you to paddle and where to steer the raft. Guides are wonderful. God is wonderful. Yes, you see where this is going. I can’t imagine living this life without the Almighty. He provides many guides—the Holy Spirit, Christian friends, Christian community, etc. His Spirit is always with us, whispering directions, encouraging us, loving us. Do I always listen? No, but I want to and that makes a big difference. God never eliminates the raging currents, but He does carry us through them.
Scripture relays an interesting and humorous account of a time the disciples were in a boat with Jesus. You can find the account in Mark 4:35-41. Jesus fell asleep and slept while a fierce storm arose. Panicking, the disciples awakened Jesus and addressed His complacency. He, in turn, addressed their lack of faith, and immediately stilled the sea. One version says that right after Jesus calmed the storm, the disciples “became very much afraid.” Another version says they “feared exceedingly.” What did they fear? The storm? No, because Jesus had just eliminated that. The scriptures indicate they were afraid of Him. In other words, they quickly realized just Who Jesus was—the God of the universe. Anytime we catch a new glimpse of just who God is, it changes us. We gain a new respect for Him. The scriptures also say that He is with us always. The same Spirit who helped fashion our world from an empty void goes with us everywhere we go.
“… And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 NIV
What about you? How has God carried you or others you know through tough times? Is God in your boat?