Upside down kayaks and God

In his Points to Ponder column, Pastor Darin Phillips writes about not panicking when you find yourself in life's rough waters.

I recently had the great experience of being comfortably seated in a kayak in Ladysmith Harbour, spray skirt fastened snugly around the coaming of the cockpit and holding my breath.

Why would you be holding your breath, you ask? The reason is that the entire kayak was upside down, and I was underwater.

If you are claustrophobic or you can’t swim, that scenario probably makes you break out in a cold sweat and begin to hyperventilate. Don’t worry — it was a planned activity. In fact, I paid to do it!

I took the basic sea kayak course offered by the great folks at Sealegs Kayaking.

The skills I had to master were the wet exit, the self-rescue and the assisted rescue.  If you are out kayaking on the ocean and for whatever reason find yourself upside down, those are some essential skills to have.

Ben, my fantastic instructor, began the course by explaining everything on dry land before I tried it out in the water.

One particular training step surprised me.

Ben said, “When you flip your kayak, you’re held in the kayak by your spray skirt; the best thing is not to panic, just take a second and calm yourself.

“Once you are ready, reach up out of the water and tap the bottom of your kayak twice to let those around you know you are OK.

“The next step is to take the handle on the spray skirt and pull it over one of your shoulders. Once you are free, slip out and swim up to the surface but keep a hand up to ensure you don’t hit your head on your kayak.”

You are upside down in cold deep waters and you aren’t supposed to panic … hmm.

Actually, it is gold advice because panicking isn’t going to help anybody.  Interestingly enough, the Bible offers the same advice about our lives as Ben did about kayaking.

“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.  When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.

“When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end — Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy one of Israel, your Saviour.” Isaiah 43:1b-3 The Message.

If you have gone through life’s “rough waters” lately, then you will immediately say, “Yeah, nice advice but I couldn’t stop myself from panicking, from giving in to despair. What outside force is going to help me?”

The verses above say it is the calming assurance that God is right there with you, looking out for you, ultimately being your Saviour, your rescuer.

The one thing we as human beings can never do is shake our fists at Heaven and say, “You don’t understand God!  You don’t know what it’s like down here!”

The reason we cannot say that is because Jesus came and lived and died right here on planet Earth. Jesus experienced every trial and obstacle this world could throw at him.

For every parent who has lost a child … God too lost a Son. For everyone who has felt betrayed by close friends … Jesus’s disciples abandoned him at his trial.

God knows, God cares and he promises to be with us every step of the way, even if we find ourselves underwater looking for an escape route.

The next time you find yourself in the deep waters of life, don’t panic ­— simply reach up, tap your kayak twice and remember, He is right there beside you.