November 20, 2011

going home

I am a conundrum.

There are times where I am a very timid, cautious person who startles when the wind blows. On the other hand, I've been known to just leap first and ask questions later.

The brave person, (or foolish, depending on how you look at it) nearly got me killed 13 years ago. In all honesty I'm not sure how close to death I actually came, but I thought I was dying. I'll tell you the story and let you decide.

My whole side of the family were in Colorado for a family reunion. There were several planned activities-things like horseback riding, sight seeing, a funeral, and white water rafting on the Colorado River. It was the rafting, or the lack of a raft, that got me into trouble.

There were 1 or 2 places in the river that day where no man in his right mind would purposely get out of a raft; there were a couple places where we had to actually get out of the raft and pull it down the river because the water was so low. Then there was the place where I learned for the second time in my life that I am not invincible.

The river at this point was very deep and bounced along at a good clip, pouring over large boulders periodically. We had pulled the raft to the river bank and all of us got out to stretch our legs. Suddenly, all the 20 somethings in the group decided they were going to jump into the river and ride this spot in their life-jackets. I stood there and watched a few of them bounce down the river, looking like little dots in the churning water, laughing, making it look so incredibly fun and inviting. After about 1 minute I decided I was going to do it too. You only go around once in life, right? Go for it. Have some fun!

I received some dubious looks from my family, but no one tried to stop me. They gave me specific directions on how to ride the river in a life jacket:
You pretend you're sitting in a chair-you keep your head up, your tush back, and your legs straight out in front of you. That's all there is to it.

Great, thought I. Looks easy peasy, sounds easy peasy. So, I took a flying leap and there I was, bobbling down the Colorado River, a tiny dot at the mercy of the water, the rocks, my life-jacket and God.

There was just one teeny tiny problem. I could not stay in a sitting position. My legs refused to stick out in front of me; the force of the water kept pushing them behind me. (that and the fact that they kept slamming into those large boulders.)

Every time I went over a boulder I would be forced completely under water. When I came up for air I would swallow gallons of said water instead. This went on for a bit; me bobbling along bouncing over rocks, coming up, swallowing large bits of the Colorado River, going down, coming up, swallowing large bits of.....you get the point. And, it got to the point where my lungs decided they'd had enough water and wanted some actual air. The problem was, I couldn't find any.

OK-so that's what was going on on the outside. On the inside? I was terrified. At first. But then, after a bit I realized I had no say in the matter. It was either live or die but that was up to God.
The fear went away and I started thinking, hmmm, what would happen if I died right now? Here? Today? Amazingly, the thought didn't bother me. I had perfect peace about it and I could sense God was right there, next to me as I moved down the river. The only thing that bothered me was thinking about our then 6 year old growing up without a mother; other than that, the only thing I thought was, hey, death by drowning isn't a bad way to go. I don't hurt, I'm not afraid. This isn't bad at all.

Right around the time I thought it truly was The End, that part of the river calmed down and one of my nephews came to my rescue. He saw me bobbling by, looking and feeling literally like a drowned rat, grabbed a corner of my life jacket, and pulled me to the river bank. I sat there on a boulder, gasping for air, happy to be alive.

Looking back, I am so thankful for that experience. Like I said, I don't know how close I truly came to dying. What I do know is that when my time comes, God will be right there, giving me the strength and peace I need, when I need it, to get through whatever it is. If He was there doing all that when I didn't die, I know He'll be there, doing all that, when He comes to take me Home.

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