float the canal

Packing up for our family trip to Hawaii, I couldn’t wait to get to the airport to pick up Clay. He’d been gone two weeks in the Congo on a work trip, and we’d barely gotten to communicate.

He went into the office one day before leaving on our trip to find that his position was being dissolved due to some budget cuts the church had to make. Luckily he was offered the role of Interim Youth Director, but still the news came as a shock.

As we adjusted to the news that our lives would now be entering an “interim” season, we floated down an old sugar cane plantation canal on tubes. I couldn’t help but think of all the similarities this activity shared with life.

We were told four things before hopping on our tubes:

1. Don’t grab hold of the walls of the canal.
2. Don’t grab hold of each other’s tubes.
3. Stay in your tube.

4. Use your headlamp in the dark tunnels.

I kept thinking how in life I am tempted to grab onto the metaphorical “walls” — to try to slow myself down or speed myself up, to control my pace — when in reality it’s much more enjoyable to just, well, float the river. It’s much easier to “go with the flow” of life, to go down the path God has created at the pace at which He leads, than to strive to change the pace when really so much of it is out of our control.

And oh, how I’m tempted to grab onto other people’s “tubes” — to cling to others in searching for answers or validation, to look to others for approval or support — when really I should be clinging to and looking to God, God first, and God mainly. And don’t even get me started on the ways in which I often attempted to force who was next to me in life in singleness. I think about how God ended up bringing me to Clay at the perfect time in both of our lives — to no effort of my own — and I’m convicted of my vast attempts at control.

I won’t lie — I’m prone to try to jump out of my “tube” — the place where God has put me. It looks so pretty over there! I bet the water’s warmer over there. Oh, look how much fun they are having on that tube. That tube is bigger, more bouyant, more glamorous. When in reality God placed me on the perfect tube for me. And He will carry me onto completion in said tube. He has equipped us with all we need for our own journey. Who are we to question Him?

And finally, the headlamp. God always gives us light to get us through the dark tunnels of life — and oh, how there are dark tunnels! This past year not only has Clay’s job transition and our long season of waiting in “interim” been a dark tunnel to which I often couldn’t see an end, we endured the tragic heartbreaking loss of miscarriage — one of the truly darkest places I’ve ever known. But God was faithful. He always gave me what I needed to get through each day. He showed me just what I needed to see, even if it was just one foot in front of me.

Toward the end of our journey down the canal, we were told one fifth and final thing:

5. Turn off your headlamp because the best stories are told in the dark.

We got to the fifth and longest tunnel of them all, and the guides stopped us all in the middle of it. They actually had us turn off our headlamps so it was pitch black because “the best stories are told in the dark” they said! They proceeded to tell us the story of how this canal floating excursion came to be — how the founders, a couple, had first navigated it on a canoe and had no idea what they would find. It was truly a story of bold bravery, but the thing that stuck out to me the most was that truth — the best stories are told in the dark.

Are not the best stories in life — or in movies or books — the ones where the hero is in a dark place, has to overcome an obstacle, has no idea where their path will lead? And so it is with our lives. My darkest places of pain and longest journeys of waiting (singleness, chronic pain, my pregnancy journey to name a few) have sparked in me a message to share and a ministry to develop. And I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

Next time you find yourself resisting the path that you’re on, trying to control your pace, clinging to others, or forgetting you have a light for that darkness, remember that the One who created the Universe is the One who created the very canal that you’re on. He knows every twist and turn. He knows when you’ll speed and when you’ll slow. And He’ll always bring you back to those you love.

He’s the One leading you, guiding you, equipping you with all you need for the journey — no matter how dark, cold, scary, unpredictable. You’re in His hands. You have His heart. And He will bring you right where you need to be right when you need to be there.

So let go. Float on. And it will all turn out better than okay.

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