My buddies and I used to take an annual canoe and kayak trip down a northern California river, where we would camp out on a sand bar each night as our trip progressed. Well, one year we decided to extend the trip an extra day and night by launching our boats further up stream. The idea was to explore new waters. The first day and night were absolutely the best we had experienced in our river adventures -- beautiful scenery and a perfect camp site.
Unfortunately, at times we can get complacent when things are going well. There is a tendency to not pay attention to the snags around the next bend; as opposed to how alert we are when we're not satisfied with our current situation.
The second morning of the trip, I was just ahead of the two canoes carrying my four friends, and I was the only one to have previously navigated this stretch of river. I warned my friends about the upcoming river bend, where there were half submerged snags (fallen trees) reaching out from both sides of the river bank, situated in the narrowest gap of rapids that we would see on our three day trip.
As soon as I was near this formidable river bend I dismounted my kayak and was in the process of pulling out of the water so as to walk around the rapids and snags. So caught up in the moment were my friends that they ignored my actions and moved ahead through the rapids. Immediately the current pushed the first canoe into the tree that was jetting out ninety degrees from the river bank. Consequently, the lead canoe was pushed side ways against the snag and perpendicular to the current. My friends made a strong effort to push off of the half submerged tree...just as they were about to recover from their dire situation the second canoe came along striking the distressed lead canoe, and pushing it once again broadside into the half submerged tree. Within seconds, the lead canoe took on water, submerged, and then twisted in half molding itself to the snag. Both passengers were able to grab onto the tree and swim to safety. They lost everything in the canoe but they were happy to be alive. As it turns out, on several occasions before and after this experience, people have drowned in this exact spot under similar conditions.
Fortunately, less than two miles down stream was the last bridge or contact with society we would have for the rest of our trip. The remaining canoe was able commandeer a power boat to come up the river and rescue the canoe-less duo. Though shaken, the three of us who still had our boats intact decided to continue on with our trip. The upcoming evening taught me a lot about fear and darkness.
We had a full day basking in the sun and taking in the pristine beauty of late summer on the river. As the sun started to going down we were in need of finding a sand bar to camp on. Once the sun disappeared we were out of luck, and we were still hopeful that we could find adequate space on an upcoming island. Unfortunately there was no moon and we realized that the flashlights were somewhere up stream at the bottom of the river, due to the morning's accident.
Visibility was zero! As we moved forward the sound of rapids grew louder. As the rapids became more pronounced so did the anxiety grow amongst my two companions. Once the rapids were upon us, my friends in the canoe started panicking -- screaming obscenities at each other and crying out in terror to the doom that was sure to happen. Keep in mind these were two grown men that understand paddling a canoe requires teamwork. Their struggles and fear were so palpable that it started to get to me -- I could feel their fear and it started to make me fearful. In that moment I reached out to God knowing that we were not alone there on the water. The rapids were loud, it was dark, and the situation did not look or feel good. Anyway, the answer to my plea "God what do I need to do here?" came quickly. The thought that came to me was to dismount the kayak and test the river bottom ... not something that I would ever think of doing because it required a lot of risk, especially since I was not wearing a life preserver at that moment. However that was the clear impulse that came to my appeal or prayer, so I was obedient. Too my shock as I slid out of the kayak I realized that we were floating in ankle deep water!! Needless to say my friends did not find the humor in the situation. They definitely did not side with my laughter.
The best part was we were right along side the island that we were hoping to reach, which we were soon to discover. Now, if I had not listened and checked the status of the water depth we would have continued on (missing the island) and into a layer of snags and deeper water. The lesson, for me at least, was at the very moment when things seemed dark, helpless, and foreboding -- all was well. There was an answer, regardless of the paralysis of fear conspiring with the blinded senses and threatening roar of the rapids: we were right where we needed to be.
"Darkness and chaos are the imaginary opposites of light, understanding, and eternal harmony, and they are the elements of nothingness."
Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy, page 479:23