Everyday Adventures: Facing the Mountain

I never planned to be a lifeguard in the Smokies, but that’s just how it worked out. My wife’s family used to own some old cabins on a river near the Great Smoky Mountains national park. One of the most entertaining parts of vacationing there was watching tubers go down the rapids just upstream. 

There was a big drop at the bottom, and if the river was up, it could flip your inner tube or at least take your breath away. If the river was down, you could get stuck.

Now there’s stuck and there’s stuck. Most people would get hung up for a minute, rock their tube from side-to-side, eventually dislodge themselves and continue on their way. But there were a few people I saw over the years who weren’t going anywhere without some help.

Now there’s stuck and there’s stuck. Most people would get hung up for a minute, rock their tube from side-to-side, eventually dislodge themselves and continue on their way. But there were a few people I saw over the years who weren’t going anywhere without some help.

That’s where I came in.  

I had two little girls who loved to play for hours in the shallow side of the rapids, building dams and floating sticks downstream. That put me sitting awkwardly on a nearby rock when people got themselves into trouble. I tried to mind my own business unless someone was really in a jam, but then I’d do what I could to help. Usually that meant rescuing a lost tube or shoving someone free.

One poor young lady, however, needed a whole other level of assistance. I heard her screaming the second she hit the rapids. Nothing unusual there. People usually whooped and hollered as they bobbed down the river.

But this girl kept yelling. That’s when I knew there might be a problem.  Everyone in her group had made it through the rapids just fine, but somehow she’d gotten separated from the herd.

But this girl kept yelling. That’s when I knew there might be a problem.  Everyone in her group had made it through the rapids just fine, but somehow she’d gotten separated from the herd. 

You see, just after the rapids, there’s a bend in the river, where the stream bounces off the side of a mountain. The main current takes you left, away from the cliff and down to a tranquil swimming hole.

This tuber, however, got caught up in a side current and went right, which slammed her up against the mountain. Now here she was stuck in a crook in the river, staring at a sheer rock wall with the current pushing against her. In her mind, I’m sure, all hope was lost.

What she didn’t realize was all she had to do was use her feet to shove off from the rock and she’d be fine. She was past the rapids and the current would carry her downstream where her friends were waiting for her.In fact, if she’d turned around, she would have seen her entire party had stopped just a few hundred feet away. They called to her, but their voices were drowned out by the rush of the water.

In fact, if she’d turned around, she would have seen her entire party had stopped just a few hundred feet away. They called to her, but their voices were drowned out by the rush of the water.

In fact, if she’d turned around, she would have seen her entire party had stopped just a few hundred feet away. They called to her, but their voices were drowned out by the rush of the water.

The rapids must have really shaken her up because by this point, she was borderline hysterical. She kept wailing, “They left me! They left me!” 

I was on the other side of the river, and waded out close enough where she could hear my voice. The current was too strong for me to cross without a tube, so I calmly explained to her no one had left her and she wasn’t trapped. All she had to do was kick off with her feet, and she’d be free. 

But she wouldn’t listen. She just kept crying that everyone had left her and she didn’t know what to do. I took a deep breath and explained it again. She was in no danger. She wasn’t left behind, and it would just take one push to set her free. 

Again more crying. The mountain and the current were more convincing than anything I had to say. I took another breath and tried again.  

“You’re fine,” I said. “Everyone’s waiting for you. Just push off in the other direction and the river will do the rest.”

I’m not sure how long it took me, but eventually I got through. She drew back her feet and then shoved off as hard as she could. A few minutes later she was reunited with her family, and they moved on downstream. 

I’m not sure how long it took me, but eventually I got through. She drew back her feet and then shoved off as hard as she could. A few minutes later she was reunited with her family, and they moved on downstream.  

I didn’t blame her for losing it. Sometimes when you’re up against a wall, you can’t think straight. Life has a way of shaking us up and slamming us into some tight spots. We feel the pressure at our backs, and all we can see is the mountain looming in front of us. In our darkest times, we may even feel abandoned, thinking we’re in this mess totally alone.  

In times like that, I’ve been thankful for the lifeguards in my life, the people who’ve reminded me of the truth. We’re not alone and we don’t have to stay stuck. God is always with us, waiting for us to push in His direction and let Him handle the rest. When we’re facing the mountain, we lose hope fast, but when we focus on God, everything changes.

As James 4:8 puts it, “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (NIV).

So if you’re up against a mountain today, find someone who can remind you of what’s true. There’s a God who loves you, who’s waiting to lead you to waters of life and peace 

 

Jason Byerly is a writer, pastor, husband and dad who loves the quirky surprises God sends his way every day. You can read more from Jason in his books Tales from the Leaf Pile and Holiday Road. You can catch up with Jason on his blog at www.jasonbyerly.com.

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