a reference point


I went kayaking with a friend recently. It was my third trip on the St. Joe River, but my first time inflating my kayak by myself. :)

Needless to say, there were a few bumbles along the way, despite the fact that I checked things before we left to make sure I was prepared!

I had three major errors in my kayak assembly process: 

  • 1. I forgot the skeg, the part of the kayak that keeps it travelling in a straight line. I only recently learned its proper name, but it was only seconds in the river when I realized my error. It was amazing how much the kayak could be turned in circles by the wind without this fairly small piece of plastic. 

  • 2. I installed the seat backwards, so that I was positioned in the middle of the boat instead of the back. Because of this, I went almost nowhere, despite furious paddling.

  • 3. With only one person in the inflatable kayak, the front (even once I was seated correctly) was just too light for the boat to move upstream. I joked that I needed a cement block in the front, but who does that?

My friend simply said, “Are you moving forward at all?” Without really looking around, I was startled at her question. Of course I was moving forward! I was working so hard!

But I chose a spot on the shore and watched, and sure enough, I was moving steadily backwards with the current, no matter how hard I paddled.

I’m not usually one to get overly spiritual, but today my thoughts were quickly captured by these events. They connected in my mind to some hard times I’ve experienced in the past months. I don’t know if it was the beautiful sunshine, the laughter of my friend, or just the gentle Holy Spirit.

We turned and paddled with the current, and I was easily able to steer and stay on course. I felt the Holy Spirit pointing out how easily I could have deceived myself into thinking I was moving forward when I had no reference point on the shore, no constant to judge my efforts against.

His Word is my constant. He keeps me centered and heading in a straight course.

I could choose to just look around and use the people around me for a reference—either feeling satisfied if I seemed to be doing “well” or discouraged if they seemed “better” than me. But that is like choosing a leaf on the river to be my reference, when it was being carried along by the current just like I was.

His Word could be my only accurate reference.

James talks about being blown and tossed by the waves. I’m sure he didn’t use an inflatable for his fishing, but surely he struggled against waves trying to move him at their will.

I want to not only have an accurate reference point to judge my efforts, but I also want my efforts to be effective in keeping me steady in the wind and waves. James explains that God-given wisdom keeps me secure and not tossed about. I get wisdom from his Word, from godly people around me, and from the voice of the Holy Spirit as He teaches me. Being sunk into or invested into these things gives me an advantage as I paddle. My friend’s kayak is plastic and sits lower in the water. She moved more easily, as her kayak was less buoyant and less prone to drift with the waves.

We kayaked, we laughed, and I learned not  how to set up and maneuver. And I felt the Lord smiling as I pondered these funny lessons.

He wants to teach me as I go about my normal life. He wants me to know He’s smiling even when I bumble putting the seat into the kayak. He’s not throwing shame at me. He wants me to experience His grace and love through the laughter of my friend.

I’m thankful.

Susan Titus