I was a little nervous when I first found out that everyone in the raft had to paddle. Personally, I would have liked to have sat back, found a good place to hold on, and just enjoyed the ride. No such luck! If you want to raft, you have to paddle.
As I mentioned before, I had no idea how to paddle or even how to hold a paddle. My knowledge of rowing a boat went as far as knowing which end of the oar to stick in the water. That's it! Thankfully, we had very knowledgeable and patient instructors. They taught us how to hold the paddle, how to paddle forward, and how to paddle backward (I had a little trouble with this one from time to time. I thought I was paddling backward, but I wasn't. Oops! Evidently, I'm not as coordinated as I thought.)
There were two main rules given about paddling. First, always hold your t-grip. The t-grip is the end of the paddle that is not in the water. If you don't hold it carefully, the current can easily swing it around and whack someone in the face. I held that thing so tightly that my hand literally hurt by the end of the day. Rule one? Check! The second rule was to always paddle with your partner. Your partner is the person who is on the same side of the boat as you are. If you and your partner are paddling in rhythm, the raft will move as it should, and things go relatively smoothly (as smoothly as can be down a raging river.) If you're not paddling together, things get ugly.
My partner was Cody, a 16-year old boy. He's tall. He's strong. He's fast. I am none of those things! Since he was in the front of the boat, it was up to him to set the rhythm, and boy, did he set it! My arms just don't move that fast, especially when I'm fighting the current. Still, I have to say that I did very well keeping a rhythm with him . . . most of the time.
The most difficult times to keep the rhythm were the times that it was the most important--through the rapids. During these times, it was hard enough to keep myself in the boat and hold onto my paddle. Rhythm was beyond my control. During these times, my paddle would be forward when Cody's was back and vice versa. Obviously, the latter didn't cause many problems, but the collision of our two paddles was not helping us to make it through the rapids. Our instructor was yelling, "Paddle, Paddle," and I was yelling to Cody, "Sorry! Sorry!" For the life of me, I could not keep rhythm during those times. If I wasn't hitting his paddle, I was hitting the rocks in the water. (At least I didn't hit anyONE!)
My spiritual application? Life is hard. We, as Christians, need to be in rhythm or in step with one another. Amos 3:3 says, Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
We need to help one another. We need to encourage one another. We need to uplift one another. We need to be in harmony. There is enough trouble and discord in the world. We don't need it in our churches! We don't need it within the family of God. Just as with the rafting, sometimes the hardest times to get along are the times of great trial, but those are the times we need to strive the most. Those are the times we need to be there for each other to help each other through. May I challenge you today--get your rhythm and stick with it. The sailing will be much smoother in the long run . . . and you'll have to apologize a lot less!