Don’t Freak Out

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To listen to this reflection as a podcast, click here.

Eight summers ago, my two brothers and I embarked on the trip of a lifetime.
Over the course of six days we traveled 100 miles in wooden dories on the turbulent Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. 
It was a blast.
We experienced about 30 sets of rapids, three of which at the time were reckoned to be Class 10 – whitewater that is sufficiently fierce to be judged a direct threat to human safety. 
Let’s just say our decision to entrust ourselves to professional guides was definitely worth it.
We had heard stories about people “swimming” the rapids, held up only by life jackets – bobbing up and down through the waves, carried forward by the current.  Could we do that?  “Absolutely,” said the guide who was manning our oars that day.
We would have to wait for a relatively calm stretch of whitewater.  “And there are two rules,” he said:

  1. “Don’t freak out.”
  2. “Don’t drink the river” (which we figured would be a direct consequence of violating Rule #1).

As we approached the next set of rapids we waited for our guide’s signal and jumped from the boat. 

We floated on our backs, feet pointed downriver.  

Our guide was right.  As soon as we hit the whitewater, I felt a strong and growing personal desire to freak out.

After topping the river’s first “standing wave,” we plunged into a trough.  The next standing wave crashed over us.  Don’t drink the river, I kept thinking.

Ultimately the three of us emerged from the chaos into calmer water.  “Piece of cake,” I said to myself, as soon as we had climbed back into the boat.  Yeah, right.

Swimming the rapids is a risk – an optional, controlled risk.  But getting up in the morning and facing the next 24 hours is inherently risky from the get-go.  And there’s nothing optional about it.

What does it mean obey the New Testament’s injunction to “live by faith”?  What does faith look like?  What does faith feel like?

Here’s a great place to start:

Don’t freak out.
Don’t be afraid.
Don’t worry.
Don’t lose your grip.

That’s because you’re not in charge. 

And despite cherished assumptions to the contrary, you’re not really in control of what’s going to happen today, either.

But here’s the wonderful news:  God is