Have you ever wanted to do something so badly that you ignored wise counsel, made a few dumb decisions, and then ended up in a place that you never wanted to be?
That’s what happened to me and four friends when I was in high school. It was a hot summer day. The kind of heat that only visits Seattle every couple years. We were bored and got a very strong urge to inner tube down the White River.
The first mistake we made was to ignore our parent’s desire that we didn’t go. The second mistake we made was to ignore a 5th friend (who happened to be a lifeguard) who was considering joining us, but then looked at the river and advised us not to do it. The third mistake we made was to ignore a couple of fishermen on the river banks who told us it was a bad idea.
The unusually high temperatures meant more snow melt which turned a usually moderate and friendly river into a raging and murderous river.
We turned our brains off, ignored all the warning signs, and off we went. It was a blast!… for the first five minutes. We came around a river bend at a good pace and were headed straight for a large, concrete pillar that supports a railroad bridge. Next to the pillar was a forest of debris that had built up like a beaver dam. We quickly linked up our tubes, thinking maybe there was safety in numbers. There wasn’t.
In the blink of an eye all five of us where thrown off our inner tubes and sucked underwater by the force of the river. I remember being pinned with my back up against that giant concrete foundation, not even able to move my arm to try to swim. What was probably only 30 seconds, felt like an eternity. It was long enough to recognize that I was most likely going to drown and to pray “God, save me!” over and over again in my head.
The next thing I remember is being released from the pillar and tossed around underwater like a rag doll. Without knowing which direction was up, I attempted to swim and finally surfaced. I reconnected with three out of four friends on the river bank, but Trevor was missing. He hadn’t popped up with the rest of us. I took off down stream, pleading with God, making all kind of earnest but empty promises if He would only save my friend’s life.
A little ways down the river, from a distance, I saw a group of people carefully fishing Trevor out of the water. He was cut and scraped and naked except for his boxers. Trevor had been knocked off his inner tube and pushed through the large pile of debris. He was underwater the longest of anyone, but amazingly he was okay.
We used someone’s phone to call for a ride and while we waited, we stood there in a very solemn circle just kind of processing what had happened. I remember feeling so relieved that God had not allowed our stupid decisions to kill us that day. I looked at my friends and said, “Well guys, I guess God isn’t finished with us yet.”
I believe that God has a plan for my life. But I don’t believe that plan will happen no matter what. I believe that my choices will effect whether or not I get to live that plan out. Unlike that day on the river, I want to live my life seeking wise counsel, making good choices, and stepping into the opportunities that God puts in front of me.
I’m thankful for His love. I’m thankful that He saved me from myself that day and every day. Now I will do my best to love and to serve Him. …And when I do go out, I hope it is doing something more meaningful than getting caught off guard riding an inner tube.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)