I tumbled in the torrent like a lone sock in a washing machine- up, down, around with no sense of direction. My shoulder slammed against a rock, but the pain didn’t register. My lungs seized seeking air. The voice of the whitewater drowned all thought except one, “Reach up, reach up!”
Why am I here?
It had seemed like such a great idea earlier that spring. In my sophomore year of college I changed my major several times. Art went out the window when I got an F minus in a drafting class because my final smudged. I wanted to be a writer, so journalism sounded great, but I couldn’t pass the mandatory weed-out editing class—JM101. After changing my major to geology I quickly realized geology wasn’t archeology. My teacher never even mentioned lost treasure or Egyptian ruins.
One night I screamed in frustration—literally, I opened the window and screamed, “What am I doing here!” Someone shouted back, “Shut up!” which was not helpful. Upon leaving for college my dad told me to have fun and make C’s, but I wasn’t having fun and I’d kill to pass with a D.
Frustrated, I snatched up my roommates Outside Magazine and began randomly flipping through its pages. Suddenly I saw it. Angels didn’t sing, but almost. A light from above highlighted the advertisement with a heavenly glow: Push yourself to meet new challenges and find your leadership style—you’re ready. Pictured above the caption a guy in a backpack stared out at a vista of snow peaked mountains surrounding a beautiful lake.
I immediately called the toll free number for more information and a few months later, here I was. Rock climbing in the Wind River Range of Wyoming sounded exciting, romantic even. I hadn’t counted on the endless hiking. My boots that looked so cute with their bright red laces at the outdoor store pinched my feet with each step. My spine slowly compressed under the 50 lb backpack and my stomach complained with constant hunger.
When I stumbled into camp the night before night everyone else had already eaten and were tucked snugly into sleeping bags like giant burritos. My team threw up our tarps, yes we slept under tarps not tents, and lay our weary bones down. As I waited for the sandman to find me I stared into the sky. The stars literally carpeted the heavens. I’m not being poetic. I’d often seen individual stars prick white holes in the darkness back home. But out here, far from civilization, the yawning black of space barely seeped through the cracks of milk that spilled across the heavens.
The next day our instructors told us to grab our ice axes and day packs. They pointed across the valley at a towering white glacier. “Today you’ll learn self-arrest techniques,” they told us. In other words, save yourself from tumbling to a gruesome death by stabbing your ice axe into the hard packed snow. But, to get to the glacier we had to cross a river.
The water foamed, frothed and practically growled like a rabid dog. We hiked alongside it searching for a place narrow enough to cross. Finally finding a few boulders close enough to traverse it, one of our instructors leapt to the other side.
After he went, my teammates from the day before followed. When it was my turn my instructor stretched his hand toward me and shouted to be heard over the roaring rapids, “Come on! You’ve got it!” I glanced at the boiling water, and then stared at his open fingers. Gritting my teeth I took two steps back and bounded forward, my arm extended, as I strained to grab his hand. With a sense of relief I felt my foot hit the rock on the other side. But no, I was off balance. As my fingers brushed his palm his eyes widened in horror. “No!” he shouted and lunged toward me. I slowly pitched backwards wind-milling my arms to no avail before I tumbled backward plunging into the torrent.
Like a solitary sock, I tumbled in the washing machine, up, down, around with no sense of direction. My shoulder slammed a rock, but the pain didn’t register. My lungs seized seeking air. The noise of the water drowned all thought except one, “Reach up, reach up, stick your hand up!” Without questioning the logic, I thrust my hand in the direction I hoped was up and I felt it.
Someone grabbed my hand and lifted me as if I was a small child, not a sopping wet girl with a heavy pack on my back. My guide grasped me in a hug then thrust me back digging his fingers into my shoulders painfully as if feeling if I were real. “I… I thought you were dead!”
“Mmm me too!” I stuttered, my jaw trembling with cold and fear.
“If you hadn’t lifted your hand I could never have saved you! What made you do it? How did you think lift it?” he asked.
Why did I lift my hand? Was it the voice of God calling to me, “Reach up!”
Now whenever I worship I remember this rescue. I couldn’t save myself. I was powerless in the raging river. The only thing I could do was lift my hand and hope someone above me would save me.
God is still calling, “Lift your hand! You cannot save yourself, but I can. I am here! I will pull you out of the deep waters and set your feet upon a rock.” Ps. 18:16, 40:2