A couple of summers ago, some out of town friends came to visit our family in Colorado over the July 4th weekend. Liz, my husband Dan, and I had known each other since birth (actually from the time I was 4 days, Liz was 6 weeks, and Dan was 2 years old). Her husband, Tim, we had all known since our youth group camping and retreat days. Our kids fall in the same age-range, which makes us pretty much a foolproof reunion. They tend to be active and expressed interest in kayaking the Arkansas River in the southern area of the state. Having experienced a couple of beginner/intermediate level white-water-rafting excursions, we agreed to the venture. Not really priding myself as an indoor girl (mostly because that is frowned upon in Colorado), but recognizing my inhibited nature for outdoor adventure- I found myself reluctant but willing to go. My lack of enthusiasm is virtually undetectable because my expressed emotion spectrum ranges from “huh”, to “that works.” Great for poker, but aggravating at charismatic worship services where they challenge you with, “Is that how you cheer for the Broncos? Doesn’t Jesus deserve more praise that what you show at sports events?” …..I digress.
We drove the couple of hours south to the kayak rental and launch site where the guides then proceeded to demonstrate basic river navigation skills and how to recover our kayaks if we happen to become separated from this essential floating device. Oh, and this bit of departing information, “There are two drops along our path. Your boat will go in the direction your eyes are looking. If you want to avoid an area of the river, simply paddle while looking in the direction you prefer to go.” Sounded easy enough. We would be through with this adventure by lunch where we could discuss how to spend the remainder of the afternoon.
If life were only that predictable, I’d be a fortune teller and you’d be reading a blog about how to win the lottery and what stock to invest in. But, alas, God appears to have had alternative plans for both of us. Upon approach of the first drop, I surveyed and observed a series of large boulders and heavy white water on the right side of the river. My best route would be navigating as far left to the river edge I could go where the river flowed calm and shallow. My observation also set off a couple of alarms as I recognized that both guides had gone ahead of me, I was trailing our group, and my life-long friend’s son, Trey, was just ahead of me being pulled by the current toward the tangle of boulders and raging currents. Where was this scenario in our tidy little river-rowing lesson? I did what any person with questionable athleticism with parental concern would do. Pointed my kayak toward the left shore and glued my eyes on Trey headed straight for the drop.
Know what a kayak does in a river even when you point and navigate it the direction you choose without making visual connection to that end goal? It channels your eye sockets, locates your gaze, and drags your kayak sideways against your every physical effort. (This is the best explanation I can give without fully grasping the physics of it). I tell you this so that you don’t have to end up with your kayak upside down on the boulder above you, swirling in 18 foot deep eddy underneath angry rapids, your rental shorts tangled at your ankles, with freakishly fast currents leading to more boulders ahead. I assessed all of this over several gracious turns of the eddied current that allowed me to briefly surface for air with each cycle. Having shared the details of the point I make next, feel free to skip the next paragraph. Should you choose to hear how the adventure ends for the sake of closure, I’ve provided the concluding details.
I was able to spot Trey’s kayak lodged vertically between two boulders down river from me at one surface break between plunging cycles. I found no trace of Trey and only knew that he too was likely dislodged from his kayak. I stressed about his whereabouts and if the others would find him for a couple of solid minutes. It took that long for me to realize that the canyon wall on the right side of the river would be a challenge for any available and willing help. I began to yell between current cycles and found that I couldn’t hear my own voice above the rapids. It surprised me how angry I became with God placing me in the prospect of yet another river fatality on the five o’clock news. After several more turns in the eddy (and dealings with God about how the news would report my negligent ending), one of the remiss tour guides shimmied the canyon wall and boulder-hopped to my rescue. I later found out that this episode would be the longest 10 minutes of my life. Trey was able to access the edge of the riverbed. Nevertheless, we kayaked to the nearest calm landing and ended our excursion without the threat of tackling a second drop. The remainder of the day called for pizza, muscle relaxers, and a commemorative visit to the sand dunes.
The point: Intent focus determines the path your spiritual kayak follows- no matter which way you aim to position it. There is no autopilot when it comes to navigating a moral compass. This is the golden thread of truth I picked up that day and when traced in my daily tapestry, it highlights when my focus diverts from eternal to selfish intent.
Risk of Authenticity
You can disembark your religious cruise ship for a more authentic spiritual relationship with God (See Eternally Provoked). In fact, I hope and pray you do. Jesus himself addressed one church saying, “I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking. You’re not cold, you’re not hot – far better to be either cold or hot!” Revelation 3:15 (MSG) However, in the pursuit to steer your own boat, it is imperative to recognize and focus on true north, or your boat will align with any distraction you allow.
Corporate Christianity does well to maintain a focus that mimics faith and can provide a constant standard for those who are not yet ready to pursue an authentic relationship with God. Once you leave the cruise ship to navigate the waters for yourself, there is no room for any inauthenticity because your boat will either move in the direction you point it, or will be tossed about by the unrelenting waves. Sometimes both.
God recognizes and regards our selfish nature, which is why he provided us with various management tools. Yes, we can refer to the bible for solid affirmation and practical application, but customized authenticity seeks the guidance of more penetrating sources.
One such source is, of course, the Holy Spirit. We have continual, non-stop, 24/7 access to God through the Holy Spirit. He provokes every part of our being and every conscious and unconscious thought when He is set as the true north of your moral compass. The voice of the eternal speaks to, in, and through us. The Holy Spirit is the reason that the Bible is considered the Living Word. Each time we read a passage, verse, chapter, or book, it is regularly met with various degrees of outlook. Not only do we meet God though the lens of our current and past experiences, the Holy Spirit provides the lens of comprehension we are to authentically interpret and live scripture. Without the Holy Spirit, scripture can only be understood as a standard for holy presentation. Through the Holy Spirit our innermost thoughts collide with direction and purpose; we can’t help but be Eternally Provoked in our pursuit of Him.