Carl and I are in Colorado visiting my family for Thanksgiving, and yesterday I woke up to fat, lovely snowflakes falling outside my window.
It was perfect.
Although lovely, Colorado has been quite a shock for us—cold-weather natives who have been spoiled by the mild winters of Georgia. We went to Target last night and each bought a pair of the coziest sweatpants we could find—we may never take them off.
So in my Thanksgiving winter-wonderland, it’s strange that I’ve spent so much time thinking about something that is strictly a summer treat—a water park staple—The Lazy River.
You see, sometimes life begins to move really fast. We come to a fork in the road, and before we know it, we’re making decisions with huge implications, leaving us feeling like we’ve boarded the fast, tunneled water slide with no way out.
Do you ever feel that way? Maybe you’re sitting on one side of a big decision and you know that whatever you decide is going to catapult you in a new direction. Maybe you’re choosing a college, between jobs, where to move. You know that one decision is going to change everything. You better make a good one.
It’s a scary feeling—full of pressure, full of consequence, full of unknowns. Yet there you are. And a decision must be made.
And the scariest part is that we feel like we’re stuck—we’ve picked a route, we can’t get off the ride. We’re now at the mercy of the hidden jets propelling us forward into a future we can’t see.
Sometimes I picture myself gripping onto the rubber tube—knuckles white on the plastic handles. I squeeze my eyes tight as I am pulled towards a waterfall—shouting to the bystanders on the side of the river frantically—help me! Do something!
Life has gotten hold of me, and I’m at its mercy.
But I’m learning that this just isn’t the case.
First of all, Lazy Rivers, as their name suggests, don’t really move very quickly. And they also don’t tend to be too deep. In fact, I think that if I un-scrunched my eyes and got up the courage to jump off my tube, I’d be able to walk to the side and climb out without breaking a sweat.
But our lives, and the decisions our lives require of us, seem so big and so fast and so overwhelming that we so often forget that we have a great degree of control over where they go.
Adult life scares me. Some combination of movies and moms in the grocery store have me convinced that life as a grown-up is as fun as having a cavity filled. I see mothers frustrated with their kids, tired and bedraggled with scrunchies in their hair and baby food on their pants.
I see couples sit at restaurants barely looking at each other, let alone having a conversation. I hear about marriages breaking up, and life hardening hearts until the space between the couple resembles a football field instead of a few feet of sheets and blankets.
It’s a fun-house of perceptions and stereotypes, of half-stories, and bad impressions. It’s an unfinished puzzle in my head that I’ve collected about adulthood, and not a bit of it looks fun.
But that’s what I feel like I’m careening towards.
I’m sitting straight up on my tube, white-knuckling the handles, calling out for help.
Someone let me off this ride, that’s not where I want to go!
Until a gentle voice whispers, “Stephanie, stand up and walk.”
There are parts of life that we have no control over—disease, disaster, and death happen without any help from us.
But there are still so many parts of life that we get to weigh in on.
Marriage doesn’t have to end in a divorce like his parents’. Parenting doesn’t have to look like it did for them. Careers don’t have to take off in that direction. Relationships don’t have to grow cold.
We can walk. We get to decide who we marry, and how we treat them. We choose how we spend our time and our money and what jobs we take. We decide where to live and how much to invest in our friendships. And when it all falls to pieces, we choose how to respond.
Life is scary, and adulthood is scary, and it’s the scariest when you’re faced with big, future-changing decisions.
But even with those kinds of decisions, life doesn’t have to be a lazy river.
A certain kind of life and a certain kind of future isn’t inevitable. You can stop, you can jump out, you can pick a different road, or you can swim upstream.
And when you need it most—Jesus is there to help you—to jump in and rescue you when you’re in over your head.
So as I’m bundled up in our neighborhood coffee shop—I’m thinking about lazy rivers. I’m realizing, for the first time in my life, that I can stand up and choose where I go.
Where do you want your life to go? What can you do now to paddle in that direction?