Friday, January 28, 2011

Lessons of the River...

I wrote this some time ago, but posted it here today as a reference to another post that I am posting today. :O I hope someone enjoys it. :)

My family and I love to swim. Over the past few years we have spent a great deal of time swimming in various lakes, enjoying the beautiful mountain views, cool water on a hot day, and all the delights that go with being in the great out doors as a family.

Now and then we would go to the Spokane River to swim, but were always very careful about where we would go. We would usually go when the current was slow and safe, or non existent, and even then we would use personal flotation devices while in the river... just to be on the safe side.

At first, Miles may have seemed like the biggest “chicken” of the bunch – which was appropriate. He absolutely loved water and sailed from the time he was six years old. However, he grew up around ocean waters off the Washington coast. There, it was too cold to swim, and sharks made swimming dangerous. Consequently, he and his siblings never learned to swim growing up. In fact, it wasn’t until a few years ago, after moving near the lakes we now live near, that Miles learned to swim at all.

When we first began going to rivers Miles knew he didn’t stand a chance of surviving the fast rushing rapids, so he stayed away from them. Though he was an endurance athlete in the areas of running and cycling, he knew that his limited experience in the water made swimming an area of physical weakness for him… the one setting in which he knew himself to be in great danger if not careful. So... careful, wise, and safe he was.

As Miles' swimming skills increased, so did both his comfort zone and confidence - unfortunately at a much faster rate than did his increase in skills development (typical, I think.)

For the first time in his life he began to be foolishly impulsive in river settings, jumping into the waters of the fast and furious river then struggling to get back to shore again. He also decided that PFD’s and other safety helps were not needed, for either him or the children (since they swam better than he did).

Though I was only an average swimmer, I had much more swimming experience than he had, and yet, I was much more cautious; I had made more mistakes. Both experience and mistakes had taught me that I have limitations; and I knew that though he did not yet know it… he did too.

Because Miles was so sure of himself, and so lacking in caution, I was afraid for him. I would see him enter extremely strong rapids, without any flotation devices or any way to bring himself to safety should he find himself suddenly in need. Each time we went to the river Miles seemed to grow stronger in confidence.

As I would repeatedly watch Miles dive into the rushing waters, I was filled with fear: fear for his life, and fear that I would soon find myself a widow. Going to the river was no longer fun for me. Instead of enjoying a peaceful swim, I found myself begging and calling out to him, “Come to shore! Please come to shore now; it isn’t safe!”

But my call fell on deaf ears. Miles was too caught up in the rapture and thrill of the moment, and too inexperienced to realize the danger.

This new impulsive spirit of his would repeatedly see an undercurrent he couldn’t seem to resist; and I would, once again find myself praying for his safety as he dove in for yet another adrenaline rush... only to be followed by another slight struggle to shore.

I kept wishing he would simply stand at the edge of the rushing river like he used to, and just wade in the shallow where it was safe. The cool water felt so good there, rushing over one’s feet on a hot day. The sensation was exhilarating. And yet, it only tempted him to go in deeper, for more.

I continued to witness Miles at the waters edge of danger. …until the day that it finally happened, the day I witnessed him crying out for help.

He was drowning.

It was a terrifying experience. But when it was over, he had finally had the experience he needed to teach him that he does have limitations. He finally learned to be careful. After this, when he would swim at the river he would use a flotation device attached to a rope, and he became more selective about which rapids he would jump into. He also got back to teaching the kids to use caution.

Though Miles now swims carefully, wisely, and very well, and though I no longer stand on the edge of the river from the stress and worry of what could happen... memories and lessons are deeply etched into my mind as a result of these experiences.

I now looked at my life as I reflect upon the lessons of the river to see if I am in danger…not among the Rivers of the Earth, but among the Rivers of Life. I ask myself if there are any little guidelines that my Father in Heaven has given to me through His leaders in the church, scriptures, or from the Holy Ghost, which I am not strictly adhering to.

Looking back, I can think of a time when (in my lack of experience and overconfidence) I placed myself in danger comparable to the danger of swimming in a river with unpredictable currents and varying depths. At this time and in his own way, it was as if my Father in Heaven cried out to me, “Come to shore! Please come to shore now; it isn’t safe!”

Thanks to Him, I made it to shore. I also gained wisdom from experiences such as these… wisdom, strength, and courage to “beware when I think I stand, lest I fall...” and to finally completely avoid the dangerous distractions of the adversary. I learned that the consequences to disobeying small and seemingly insignificant guidelines can actually lead us down a life threatening course... be it physical or spiritual.

It is my children which now come to mind as I watch them making decisions. So far, they are mostly wise, their decisions are sound. But I know there will be decisions that they will make that are not wise, and I am comforted by the knowledge that sometimes, mistakes bring wisdom. I am comforted to know... really know... that all things work for the good of those who love and serve the Lord.

As a mom, (and as an individual) I have on occasions had to remind myself to breathe and remember that it is OK to make mistakes.

But then again, hoping we will all gain wisdom and not wait to act until life is in peril...
I also thank God for the Lessons of the River.

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