Repost: Dunk

We sat with our life jackets buckled, paddles in hand, and minds filled with excited (and maybe a tiny bit of nervous) anticipation as a Nantahala River Guide gave us our official instructions.  It was finally “rafting day” of our North Carolina vacation and even though almost everyone in our group had done this before, it was good to get a refresher on the basics: like how to hold the paddle (T-grip only!) and where to sit (“Crack-on-crack,” of course).

But one piece of advice caught us by surprise.

The Nantahala River is famous for its fast flowing freezing cold water and steady, moderate rapids – making it a perfect trip for tourist beginners who want to get a taste of the “white-water scene”.  But, like many of its counterparts, the Nantahala also has a reputation for being dangerous – even deadly.

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And so, some of the most important instructions involve what to do if you or someone you are rafting with falls out of the boat.  The funny thing is that many of these recommendations seem to be the opposite of our human instinct!

For example, if you were to have the unfortunate experience of falling out of your raft, your instinct might be to put your feet down and try to stand up. Instead, though, you are to float on your back with your feet out of the water until the others in your raft can get to you.

Along those lines, if someone in your raft does take that accidental polar plunge, it’s now your responsibility to pull them back into the boat.  There are several ways to do this: Hold a paddle out to them, grab them by the life jacket, or dunk them.

Wait, what?

You could hear the nervous laughter go through our little audience – “Ha ha, he’s totally kidding, right?”  Our un-white-water-educated brains could not comprehend this!

“No, I’m serious!” he said.  “If you’re struggling to pull someone up, pushing them under will allow the life jacket to do what it was designed to do – propel them up and out of the water, giving you that extra boost you need to get them into the raft.”

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As I read the words of Jesus, I find that He spent a great many of them preparing His people for what was to come.  When He told the disciples about His departure from this earth, they were understandably nervous!  But then He told them that it was actually going to be to their advantage that He go away.

Wait, what?

“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7)

Just like those original disciples, we often have a hard time wrapping our limited minds around what God is doing. In fact, our biggest questions often come down to, “If God is in control, why does He allow bad things happen to His people?” and “If God loves me, then why is my life so hard right now?”

I’ve been right there with you in those questions. I’ve experienced the plunge into those raging waters that felt like they were going to consume me. And at times I’ve even felt that rather than rescuing me, God was actually pushing me further under.

But it’s in those desperate, weak, and sinking moments where the Helper – the Holy Spirit – goes to work.  That’s where, like that life jacket, He begins His job of propelling us upward.

Because it’s the helpless who know they need an Advocate.
It’s the hurting who will cry out for a Comforter.
It’s the lost who will admit their need for a Guide.
It’s the broken who will listen to the Reminder of God’s mercy and love.
It’s the weak who will depend on His Power.
It’s the dead who know they have no hope except to be brought back to life in Him.*

It may go completely against our human instinct, and of course the Spirit’s work is not limited to us being “down,” but sometimes that extra “dunk” is exactly what allows Him to propel us right out of the pit!

Thankfully, none of us actually needed to apply our rafting guide’s advice that day – we all stayed safe and (relatively) dry in the boat.  But, there was no hesitation in keeping our life jackets tightly buckled and our minds prepared for what might be headed our way.

So maybe the next time I feel like I’m sinking, instead of going into panic mode, instead of trying to put my feet down and stand on my own, I’ll simply surrender and allow my Helper to do His thing.

Because it turns out that dunk may be to my great advantage.

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*John 14:16-17 (NIV/ASV), John 16:13, John 14:26, Romans 15:13, Titus 3:5-6

(Originally posted August 2015)

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Inside

Some people are natural-born athletes. I am not one of those people. Everything about me is uncoordinated – I regularly trip over my own two feet!

There are several athletic activities that us uncoordinated people avoid – like jump roping, sports that involve balls, and group exercise classes to name a few.

My avoidance of these activities has been fairly successful – until the other day when my friend Jess invited me to go with her to a group exercise class. If that wasn’t scary enough, it was a “Dance Party” class, yikes!

My stomach was in knots as I walked into the room – this was way out of my comfort zone! I may have run over a hundred miles this year, but this kind of exercise goes against everything inside of me!

As the class started and we worked on our first set of moves, I felt pretty good. Step forward, step back, step forward, step back. “Hey, I think I can do this!” I thought. Then we added the arms and it was all over 😜

When God made Adam, He said “It’s not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18) – but I think sometimes we’d rather be alone than have to deal with some of the people in our lives! As we interact with others, it often goes against everything inside of us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14).

As human beings, we carry within us “the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). Everything inside of us wants our relationships to give us good feelings. Love is supposed to feel good. Family is supposed to feel good. Friendship is supposed to feel good. And a lot of times it does! But there are many more times it doesn’t.

When we care about someone, we expect them to care about us in return and we expect them to show it by acting in ways that line up with what we believe is right and good. That pesky sinful nature we were born with makes this difficult, though, and instead of feeling good feelings, everything inside of us wants to get mad, get even, or give up altogether!

One morning about a year ago, I was stressed out and burned out and and grumpy with my husband for who knows what and in my quiet time that morning, I felt God leading me to encourage him that day. Tim’s primary “Love Language” is “Words of Affirmation” but it’s at the bottom of my list of strengths. So as I heard him walking down the stairs, I said to God, “NO! I CAN’T! It goes against everything inside of me!”

And then I heard a very clear voice say, “No it doesn’t! If you have My Holy Spirit inside of you, then it doesn’t go against EVERYTHING inside of you!”

In Galatians 5:16-17a, Paul tells the believers to “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.” There are going to be many times when God’s command for me to love seems contrary to my natural desires, but thankfully “me” is not all that’s inside of me!

A few verses later, Paul writes: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Notice he doesn’t say “the fruit of you” or even “the fruit of your obedience” – he says the “fruit of the Spirit”.

It’s not the fruit of you, it’s the fruit of Him. I don’t know about you, but love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are not things that I’m naturally good at. They are all things that go against the “me” inside of me. But in every moment of choice, the Holy Spirit is available and willing to produce this fruit in me as I yield to Him.

By the time we got to the halfway point of our workout the other night, I was getting in the groove. Being surrounded by a group of women who were struggling (and laughing) as much as I was helped, but I also discovered this secret: Whenever I was off track, going in the wrong direction, or just could not get my hands and feet to work together, instead of trying to fix the problem while in motion, I stopped moving, thought about it, and restarted.

Whenever loving your neighbor (or your spouse, or family member, or co-worker, or friend) seems impossible for you to do, you can pause and make a conscious choice to let the Holy Spirit in you love them instead. You can “remove yourself from the transaction”* – your flesh and its self-focused emotional desires don’t have to be the deciding factor!

If you’ve put your faith Christ, then you have God’s Spirit in you and now everything inside of you is not just you – it’s Him, too. And the Holy Spirit’s not a professional dance aerobics instructor smiling (way too much) and saying, “You can do this!” He’s saying “I can do this!” We love people not because we can do it, but because He can!

*Eric Samuel Timm, Outcry Philadelphia 2016

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