The scariest day of my life- to this point- was the day that I rafted the Nile.
My whole squad was planning on doing it, and I knew that unless I wanted to be the only lame one sitting on the sidelines, I didn’t have a choice.
I had only white water rafted once before. I was 12 and I fell out of the boat. I was cold and shaken up and devastated when my mom wasn’t terrified and relieved that I was alive when I told her the story. (My mom is clearly tougher than I am.)
So when we arrived in Jinja, and the day came to raft the class 5 rapids, I felt like I was marching off a cliff.
We drove a few hours to the place where you put the boats in and I didn’t say a word- white knuckling the seat in front of me. My heart was beating so hard I could feel it in the top of my head- and the bottom of my feet. I started counting how many hours I would have to endure until I could get on the bus again- and was legitimately praying that I’d survive those treacherous hours in between.
As we were about to get in the water, we asked for some last minute survival advice from our friend Kyle- who had worked as a rafting guide for years.
He told us that if we got tossed out of the boat, we should scrunch up into a ball and then shoot our limbs out like a starfish.
I’m not really sure why he told us to do that- but I tucked that little nugget up into my life jacket- hoping that I’d remember to ‘starfish’ if I found myself close to death.
Working at Adventures in Missions, it’s amazing to get to see the anticipation and excitement as people prepare for training camp.
On Saturday afternoon, 250 racers will swarm a campground in Georgia, coming for 10 days to be trained for what will be one of the most unique and amazing years of their lives.
I remember training camp perfectly- I remember being terrified and crying for months leading up to it. I remember yelling at God as I was packing… repeating over and over again “who said this was a good idea!?”
I remember arriving and every moment of that first day. I remember hiding under my sleeping bag that first night, sobbing into the phone, totally unsure about what I had gotten myself into. I was completely positive that I was too small, too fragile and too insignificant to do something so huge.
Sitting safely on the other side of training camp, and having fully survived both camp and the Race, I’ve gotten several emails asking me what advice I have for the 250 about to meet us here in Georgia- about to take their first step on this amazing journey with Jesus.
And here’s what I have to say:
I came into training camp, wrapped tightly in a ball, not wanting to change or grow or be pushed at all. I was terrified and unsure and just wanted to be left alone in the coziness of my fetal position.
Slowly, over the course of the 10 days, I began to allow God to peel back my limbs, one by one, holding me in a stiff and slightly reluctant ‘starfish’. And by the last day, I was laying open on my own, my heart pounding with the anticipation of what this crazy and wild God was capable of.
Training camp is an experience unlike most you’ll have in your life.
You have no idea what to expect and you’re about to meet a group of people that will very quickly become your family.
You have 10,000 questions and your parents are convinced that you’re going to get killed by terrorists and you are really hoping for some concrete dates and travel information.
Now take a deep breath and relax.
This is the advice that I have been repeating to myself for the past few weeks, that I will give to the 250 coming to camp and to anyone that finds themselves in a season that’s stretching and unfamiliar and uncomfortable.
God does his best work when we’re out of our comfort zones and when we open ourselves up to him. This season- training camp or a transition or the beginning of a new life- is a perfect and beautiful opportunity for us to do just that.
Lets lay ourselves open so that God can begin to do his best work in us.
Lets open all of our limbs, stretching and reaching out for what He’s handing to us, exposing our hearts for him to tweak and shine.
As discomfort sets in and change begins to rock the boat, we will want to resist it. We’ll want to scrunch ourselves up into a tiny little ball, protecting ourselves and clinging to the way we’re used to doing things.
And that’s ok.
But the quicker we relax and uncurl, the quicker we’re going to see God start to do some amazing and miraculous things in and through us.
It’s scary- I get it. We’re stepping into some rushing waters with no idea what to expect and no idea if we’re going to get to the warm bus on the other side.
But we will.
We will get there- and the best way for us to survive, and the best way for us to thrive, is if we shoot our arms and legs out, trusting God with the most sensitive parts of us.
Lets allow Him to use this change, this discomfort, this uncertainty to refine us, making us look much more like Him- like the people He created us to be.
– For those 250 future racers- Training Camp is going to be incredible. You’re going to see new sides of a Holy God that are beyond your wildest dreams.
I can’t wait to meet you all. 🙂 I’ll be there on Saturday and Sunday and then the following Friday. If you need some prayer or encouragement or just a hug- please come find me. I’ll be there- arms open.
1. I did fall out of the boat while rafting the Nile and it was awesome. However, I was rescued by a Ugandan man in a Kayak. I didn’t try the starfish thing, so check with a guide before you try that at home.
2. Rafting the Nile was the scariest thing I’ve ever done, but it was awesome. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. And I looked really tough while doing it- just for the record…