It was a sparsely attended youth group outing of about 15 deranged souls. The trip began in Pennsylvania and ended just into West Virginia.
Normally, it was a 5-hour experience with a lunch stop somewhere in the middle. The water levels were nearly 15 feet above normal, the temperature 15 degrees below normal and the trip this time of year was 1.5 hours shorter than normal.
Long before I saw the river, I could hear it. When I did, I regretted ever planning the trip. It was a raging, boiling mess of white froth and foam and we were about to surrender ourselves to this current in a 20-foot raft with an experienced guide. On the bus ride to the launch . . . not “lunch” site, they gave us a crash course on river protocols and etiquette. This included a recital of the river fatalities, designed to scare us to death, I believe.
Out of the bus . . . into the raft . . . off we went.
At about 2 hours, we stopped for lunch. For 120 minutes, my feet had been submerged in about 8 inches of extremely cold water in the bottom of the raft. When I stepped onto terra firma, I was not sure that I had anything inside of my boots except for the end of my legs. The stop was not long enough . . . back in the raft . . . and then it was over. I had an adventure that day. Wet and uncomfortable for most of the trip, I wasn’t sure that I was ever safe. People were screaming all around me.
As I think about the type of experience that we have in the spiritual realm, I am conscious that much of it is very tame and bland. There are aspects of “faith-walking” that by design, are absolutely frightening . . . if we are truly following. In many ways we have eliminated risk from our faith experience today. It’s like a tip to a theme park where danger is simulated. People hunger for that experience and yet, they know that there is little to no reason for anxiety or concern. Actual risk would bankrupt these “adventure” parks for lack of courage and a litigious society.
If you want life and vitality in your relationship with God . . . if we hope to find it in our churches we have to be willing to trust God as He leads and guides us to make decisions. And yet, is there any place where we are better cared for than in His Hands? Is there any place where we are more alive than in the Presence of the Giver of life? Everything that you are . . . everything that you have been given must be daily laid on the line, as a “living sacrifice”, Paul suggests in Romans 12. When it becomes something that we are no longer willing to surrender to the possibility of loss then it is no longer God’s. This is where the adventure lives . . . right on the precipice of loss.