I was terrified

We rounded another curve snaking through the Bighorn Sheep Canyon. My clammy hands gripped the steering wheel as Anna and I made our way to Cotopaxi, Colorado. Anna rafted as a child, but today would be my first experience river rafting. That is if I found the courage to overcome the fear that chasing me down.

I crept below the speed limit. “Mom, you can go a little faster.” The steep canyon walls loomed ominously on the left while cresting white waves of the Arkansas River rushed rapidly to our right.

“There’s no hurry, Anna.” Secretly, I pondered excuses to turn around and go home.

Why was fear back, again?! It was as if I was breathing a toxic gas that clouded my thoughts and blurred my vision.

Colorado had record snowfall over the winter. The swollen river now flowed with elegant force and speed. Every time I glanced at the water, I mentally measured the mass tonnage forging through the canyon.

Finally, we arrived at our Rock-N-Row rafting destination. The river raced before our eyes a hundred feet in front of us. We were early, so I mused while we waited for check-in. We’re probably the only ones in all of Colorado rafting today.

Recent reports of river rafting fatalities compounded my fears. Dangers of the high river flow made the nightly news numerous times in recent weeks.

Fear trickles, then floods

Anna looked at me with her brows knit. “Mom, you sure you want to do this?”

I smiled weakly, “Of course, that’s what we came here for right?” I began to doubt that I the courage to this.

As we checked in, the staff said one of the other parties canceled. One party was still due to arrive.

Great…I bet they don’t show up either. Anna and I are the only ones ignorant enough to place ourselves on a raft on water moving 29,000 cubic feet per second.

 Eventually, the other party arrived. I was only slightly encouraged. We won’t be the only ones to make the news tonight.

They gave us helmets, PFDs and waivers to sign. Okay, I’m officially signing off that I am stupid enough to do this! And I’m taking our daughter down with me.

Next, came the safety speech; what to do if someone else falls out, you fall out or the whole raft upturns! Aaahhh! Any self-willed courage I had died right then and there. Whirlpools of fear swirled in my mind as they handed us yet another waiver.

Fear brings shame

Anna offered a way out, “Mom, we don’t have to do this. I’ll come back with Dad another time.” I didn’t want to let her or myself down. “No darlin I’m fine.” Eventually, the bus arrived at the drop-off site. “Okay folks, last chance to use restrooms.” They unloaded the inflated rafts.

I studied the river passing only feet away at a nauseating speed and panicked. “Anna, I can’t do it. I’m sorry.” Ashamed and embarrassed, I addressed the guide, “Please don’t unload that second boat. I’m having stomach issues, and I don’t think I can make it without a bathroom.”

Fear is a liar!

Wide-eyed with shock, Anna instantly jammed me up. “Mom! Tell the truth.” She was right. I was miserable with fear and mortified that I outright LIED. I looked at the guide and blurted. “Yes, it’s true. I’m terrified.” Finally, the truth was out. Smiling kindly, our guide reassured me, “We don’t want you to do anything you are uncomfortable with.”

Truth leads courage to harness fear

I looked at the river, the raft, the guide, and my daughter. Anna whispered, “Remember who you are Mom. Whatever you decide, I’m good.”

Alas! My wise daughter Anna called me out with truth and turned me back to the source of truth. Remember who you are.

How easily we forget that we are God’s children and as such, fear has no place in us. I looked at Anna and the guide. “I can do this.” Anna’s eyes searched mine. “You sure?”

Finally, as I focused on truth, peace flooded in, capsizing fear.  “Yes, I’m sure.”

The journey through both calm and rough water was exhilarating. Admittedly, I was grateful we only hit class-three rapids, but I truly enjoyed the experience.

Finding courage over fear on the river

Christ works courage in us

Even when we lack courage, Christ at work in us provides all the courage we need.

When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you..
.  Isaiah 43:2

With my thoughts in check, I saw the river differently. Instead of a deadly force ravaging its way through the canyon, it became a reminder of the mighty presence of God working His way in and through us carrying life in a forward movement.

So then, don’t let fear steal your joy –or tempt you to lie! Above all, remember, the peace of Christ, like a mighty river, floods out all fear and carries you to places you would not go on your own.

Shelly Busby is the author of the book The Girl Who Walked in the Shadow of the King. Click here to find out more about Shelly’s story.

Arkansas River Rafting