University Church Toledo

Faith as a Journey

winding river

Imagine life as a long and winding river!

There are a lot of twists and turns in the river and even places where the river splits into two and it might not be clear which way to go. Some parts of the river are quiet and the water is calm. In other places, there are rapids and the sharp rocks are treacherous. We might ask if it is even possible to make it down the river in one piece, let alone enjoy the journey.

map
Perhaps having a map of the river might help.

If the river splits into two branches somewhere ahead, it would be useful to know when the fork is near. Or if one fork leads to the rapids and the other fork bypasses them, then that might be useful information to have.

testing the water

But here’s the thing about the river…

Some people are standing on the banks, with their backs to the river. Some have taken a look at the water and thought to themselves that it looks a bit cold, a bit mucky, and not very inviting. With nobody to encourage them to wade in, they are standing there, unsure of what to do. Perhaps they are gritting their teeth, getting ready to dive right in, yet they are scared and nervous because they know that they don’t swim very well. Some are walking away from the river, not even trying to make the journey. Some walk away because they have tried to be part of a group journeying down a river in the past and it didn’t go well for them. Others walk away because they don’t see that it is possible to make it down the river or they just don’t see the point of the journey. Perhaps some walk away because they don’t even realize that the river is there.

Sometimes, someone will gather up the courage to put a toe into the water, perhaps even wade around a little. They aren’t ready to put on their swimwear, strap on a life jacket, or climb into a canoe, but they are willing to get their feet wet. Often, a person will find that the water actually isn’t so bad after all. That person may even wind up smiling as they walk around in the water! Who knows, if someone encourages and works with that person, instructing them in swimming, rafting or canoeing, perhaps they’ll get adventurous and set off on an exciting journey down the river.

Swimming together

Swimming alone isn’t so much fun, but when a whole group gets going together then the journey really turns into an exciting event.

Even though swimming is hard work – especially if the current is against you – it is fun to put in the effort and work at it when the whole group is pulling together. In fact, with a whole group supporting and encouraging each other, the progress that everyone makes in their journey along the river can be quite extraordinary. Often people will wonder why they never tried this before and start to think of friends and family whom they might encourage to join them and give it a try.

when it gets tough

Remember those rapids?

Well, every now and again they crop up during the journey down the river. Even with the map to help, not all the rapids can be avoided. In fact, perhaps it wouldn’t be a real journey without a few rapids along the way. With the proper training and the right equipment, getting through the rapids – although never a calming experience – can be accomplished without winding up capsized, underneath the canoe, struggling to breathe and wondering why on earth you started this journey in the first place.
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Those with experience in canoeing know that the real trick is to roll with the canoe when it turns over and – lo and behold – if you keep a tight grip, you turn out right side up in the end. A little practice doesn’t hurt, of course. And a friendly canoe instructor who has been down the rapids a few times in the past would be a big help, too.

helping others
Close by the banks of the river, where the water is calm and quiet is the perfect place in which to teach others how to swim.

And with all you’ve learned on the journey, who could possibly be better at helping others to learn how to swim than you? Your unique journey equips you in special ways. It may be true that there are many different swimming instructors but there are no better instructors!

Those who have made it some way along the river usually find that the biggest thrill of all isn’t riding the rapids. The biggest thrill is watching someone who used to be standing with their back to the river but who is now teaching other people how to swim.

Are you ready to dive in? Check here.