In my time in coastal Virginia, I haven’t had the time—no, let me correct that: I haven’t set aside the time—to row through these waters. I often have taken the Elizabeth River ferry between Portsmouth and Norfolk. But there was a pilot steering the boat, and an engine powering passengers between the two points. In the kayak, I was close to the water, and I rowed and steered using the strength of my own body.
My friend—an avid “kayaker,” reminded me about the proper use of the oar. Use each paddle to scoop the water. He said. Hold it at shoulder length. Get into the rhythm. Don’t work too hard. Just go with the flow, and you can do the adjusting and the turning.
And so we floated up Cypress Creek on a zigzag course around the marsh grasses. Along the way, I enjoyed conversation as my friend, one with an engineering mind, reflected on the grace of God in the natural order. There were times when we enjoyed silence, interrupted by osprey as they soared silently above us. The dogwoods were in full display, and the sun made the blossoms even more brilliant.
My friend suggested that we turn around before we came to a highway overpass, and to begin floating back to the landing. For the first time, I felt what it is like to ride the tide. My oar was a steering device; only rarely did I use it to propel the kayak.
Then, my friend made a wise comment. “Isn’t it great when you can just go with the flow?” As a fellow Christian, he and I knew that we experienced on the water what the spiritual journey can be like. There are times when living requires a lot of energy, and that energy often is spent when fighting the currents. That energy may be needed for moving against the current, or even to challenge the turbulent waters.
In a memorable story told by Mark (4:35-41) the disciples were battling the stormy waves while Jesus was asleep in the boat. They wake him and cry out, “Do you not care that we are perishing?” Jesus does not answer them. Rather, he stands and, with quiet firmness, tells the wind and the waves, “Peace! Be still.”
My friend and I had a peaceful day on the water. We decided to go with the flow. Even in rougher times, going with the flow can sustain us when we find peace in none other than Jesus the Christ.