I row a scull. It’s a very thin boat, with oars on either side. The seat is on coasters, allowing me to slide forward, place my oars in the water, and push back hard with my legs. That means I can go much faster than someone who is only using their oars. I fly past people canoeing or kayaking – not because I am stronger but because my boat is better designed to speed through the water.
The other interesting feature about a scull is that it travels backwards. This can be quite disconcerting at times, especially for the novice sculler. For those who are a little more confident, however, it becomes second nature to give the occasional glance over your shoulder. And for those who like to travel as fast as possible, you can place a mirror in front of you, so that you can see quickly anything you might need to change course for.
Sometimes I think that my life and walk with the Lord is a bit like rowing backwards. It is not that I push out into the river without a clue of what I might encounter. I glance behind me, and am aware of other boaters, or if I am heading too close to shore. Yet I do not see the small log floating in the river, often until I hit it, causing my boat to rock from side to side for a few moments. The same is true in my life. I do not always see those things that come at me suddenly. Like the email I received this week from my brother informing me that his wife had just died. He was letting me know as soon as he could but had to use email unless he wanted to wake me at three in the morning. He lives in England. And it briefly threw me for a loop. I phoned him as soon as it was reasonable to do so. I did not know it was coming, although I knew she had been sick.
I have set my course to follow my heavenly Daddy. I can see the beauty of where he has already travelled with me. Some of the experiences have been wonderful – those incredible outreaches, the exciting worship experiences, the births of my children, their lives, so much joy. And then there are those experiences that I wish I had not had – like the drowning death of my son and the near death of my daughter. I am so grateful that I did not see those experiences coming. I survived them, I even grew closer to the Lord through them, but I did not see either of them until they were on top of me.
I know that my death is coming too, although hopefully not in the near future. But I know one day I will die, and I am glad that I do not know when that day is. There may be some other painful things I will have to face before that day too, and if that is true, I am happy not to know what they might be. I can see clearly that the Lord has kept me faithfully through some difficult situations, and I am still moving in pursuit of his will.
One thing that scull rowers tend to do for one another is warn each other of logs floating in the water. Or if there is a patch of weeds floating at some point in the river, we like to inform others to help them to know it’s coming, and therefore avoid it. We as Christians need to do that too. If it looks like someone might get caught in the mess of immorality, or gossip, or something negative, we should encourage them to be aware of how they can easily become ensnared and should therefore avoid going in that direction. And if another rower should become trapped in some weeds, we need to offer what help we can, whilst at the same time recognising how easily we also can become ensnared. Sometimes the best course of action is to find someone else who is better able to free a boat stuck in weeds, or to free a person stuck in a particular situation.
I am so grateful for the places I have been. I know where I am headed, but I do not know all that I will encounter as I continue my walk with the Lord. I do know that I can trust him though, and even though I cannot see everything I know that he can. And I have faith that he will continue to be with me