I recently went on a rafting trip with youth from my church. When all of the planning and preparation for the trip was happening, I never thought to ask about the boats we would be in. I had been rafting before. I knew what whitewater rafts were like. I had had other water and river experience as well. I understood the basics of water safety and how to row a boat. Or so I thought. You see, in my other boating experience, unless it was a motorized craft, I always had an oar or a paddle. I was always an active participant in getting the boat where we needed to go. I thought this would be like that. I expected to be in a boat with my co-captain and four youth with all of us wearing life jackets and helmets and rowing together. We would learn teambuilding skills and have fun while enjoying nature. But that isn’t what happened. First, we didn’t have helmets. I was assured that would be okay because the water was not rough and there was no way we would be knocked out of our boats. Second, when we went to load our group we found out that there was actually only one person that would be rowing each boat. Miscommunication? Misunderstanding? Someone higher up in planning than myself must have made this decision, but I was not prepared with this knowledge, and I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Still, we loaded the boats with our gear for two days wrapped in dry bags, divided our company, sat in the boats, and waited to be pushed into the river. The instructions were given to get our boat pointed the right way and to row hard to avoid the first obstacle – a tree that had fallen at the river’s edge and created what’s called a “sweeper.” I was not rowing. I had no control. I trusted my co-captain, but even he hadn’t expected to be in the position he was – completely responsible for all six of us in the boat. We weren’t pushed very far out, he did his best as he tried to get the hang of the oars, but in the fast current of the river, we soon found ourselves heading directly for the sweeper about which we had been warned. And suddenly I was dumped out of the boat and swept by the current under the tree. My life jacket brought me to the top of the water again as I gasped for air and tried to calm myself in the freezing water. I had watched the safety video with instructions on how to not try to stand but to float with feet up pointed down river. At that point, my ability to choose and control of my situation was only that I could follow those instructions and watch for a safe place to get out or hope for rescue.
I feel like that is how our lives are sometimes. We may find ourselves in situations for which we are completely unprepared. We may be swept up in a current that is taking us away from where we were supposed to be. There may be times when we feel like the only thing that we have any control over is our attitude. Maybe that is true, but that is powerful, as Michelle explained. Sometimes we need to choose to change our outlook so we can see others more clearly as Norma encouraged, or to remember our own true worth as Kaloni learned. Pat has shared how powerful education and a little help can be in providing more opportunities for greater choices for women in Nigeria. Shelli has shared with us the power of not being scared to make bold choices or being ashamed of the realities of life, and our guest, Brie, shared how she did just that and found happiness in choosing what was best for her family.
I floated down that river trying to remain calm and being thankful for the preparation of the safety training. I did get pulled out by the first boat in my company, and we ended up having a really wonderful time and learning a lot about ourselves, preparedness, and nature. I realized that when I had been packing, I had a lot of choices about what to bring, but when I was at the campsite, my only choices were limited by what I had brought. Our choices do have consequences, and as Big Ocean Women, we willingly accept responsibility for our choices, for this is how we live with integrity and help to improve the world around us as we lead in being purposeful with our stewardships and lifting those within our spheres of influence.