I am a kayaker. Before you become overly impressed with my grand sense of adventure, I’ll remind you that I live in the middle of Illinois. It’s not like there are white water rapids to tackle or anything. I simply go out to our local, man-made lake, drag my kayak into the water and within 10 minutes, I am floating peacefully in the water.
I have been out at 6:00 in the morning (to avoid boats and actually make it alive to the other side of the lake instead of tooling along the shore line or quiet coves) and 9:00 at night (hovering close to the dock and being yelled at by various lake-home owners that we are going to get run over by boats. So Helpful.) .
I bought 2 kayaks and joined a lake club 2 years ago and it is undoubtedly some of the best money I have ever spent. Two times in the last month a friend and I have loaded up our kayaks and traveled a whole hour away to join complete strangers in a Central Illinois Kayaking Club. We are both 50 (ish) years old and feeling pretty proud of our adventures. Next time, we decided we will camp in a tent the night before, but now I am just bragging. 😉
About half of the time I kayak with friends, which is why I bought 2. I love sharing this experience with people who I care about and who I know could use an hour or two of escape.
Often, though, I go alone, which my mom and mother in law don’t like very much for safety reasons. When I send them a pic and am out by myself, I remind them that I would have to stand up and rock back and forth aggressively in order to fall out and as far as I know, there haven’t been too many hostages taken off of kayaks in Lake Springfield lately.
I go alone for fun, but I also go alone when I am stressed, sad, overwhelmed, angry, flustered, or feeling crowded. Last time I went was immediately after I had left a funeral for a young friend’s mom and in the same hour found out my brother’s house had burned down in the California fires.
After months of quarantining and no graduations or proms and college cancelled for my daughter and life postponed and interrupted in a thousand different ways for everyone I knew, these two events made something inside me snap.
Going back to real life just didn’t seem appropriate. So, in my dress and heels, I headed for the lake to see if I could find the serenity and focus I needed to go on with my day. My life.
As I pushed away from the shore into the quiet cove that is like a hallway leading to rougher waters, I heard it. The subtle, soothing sound of the paddle moving through the calm waters. It’s not unlike the sound of a gentle fountain or stream or even one of those zen-like, battery operated mini waterfalls you might find in a spa or have in your home for relaxation; a gentle ripple.
Each time I put my oar in and slowly drug it from side to side, the gentle ripple generated a “quieting” in my spirit.
I listened carefully to this and it soothed my soul. It took me a few minutes to get to the open water. I paddled out a bit and just sat and read and cried and called my sister, who always says what I need to hear.
As I headed back to real life, it occurred to me that when I am paddling in the rough waters, the sound of my oar pulling me through the water was not the same.
When I moved quickly and rowed with high energy and hard work, the sound was not relaxing or peaceful.
It sounded like effort.
Immediately, the verse “Be still and know that I am God” came into my mind. This was a perfect metaphor for me to understand the necessity for stillness.
When I sit with God, slow my spirit enough to listen for his prompting, his caress, his comforting presence, I find rest in my Being. Deep in my knowing.
When I “suck it up”, “man up” and “give it some gusto”, I often create too much static to hear that still small voice of assurance that he loves me, he sees and hears me, and he is in control of it all — that He is indeed Lord.
It’s like rowing in rough water – I get where I am going, I suppose, but it’s a lot of work and effort, minus the sense of pleasure and peace that comes from paying attention to what God is saying and doing around me.
I am simply rowing/going too fast to really hear his voice.
Maybe you don’t have a kayak, and for that, you have my sympathy. I love mine so much! But I highly recommend finding a way to be alone and still with God. Maybe it’s in nature or in a boat, but most often you will need to carve out time and space to do it without that much rigamarole (is that a real word?).
You might need to step away from your desk or your home or your friends/coworkers/ family and sit in your car, go for a walk or lock yourself in a closet for a few minutes. You may need to do this a few times a day to stay sane.
As you get better at turning your will and your life over to the care of God and trusting him with the outcome, you will not wean yourself off of this method of finding peace…
…you will crave it.
“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and trust will be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” Psalm 37:7