Spent the weekend down in the Mourne Mountains with 33 young people from our church. It was the usual fare of adventure activities, rock climbing, hiking, canoeing, orienteering etc. Against all sound judgment I decided to do the wet bouldering up the river at Bloody Bridge outside Newcastle.
It was lashing rain, the river was running pretty full and it was March….in Ireland. But equipped in my figure flattering wetsuit I and a dozen or so of us tackled the river with varying degrees of enthusiasm. I just love these occasions when the bravado of early teens faces off against a new challenge.
Walking back off the hill at the end I was amazed at how chatty wee Lauren had become just through the experience. She is a tiny slip of a girl, easily the smallest in the group, in fact the only girl in my bunch, yet she fronted up first every time in the big contests ahead of all the boys. First through the squeezes, or down the chutes or into the deep, cold plunge pools.
I’m reliably informed that water weighs 1 ton per cubit metre and sometimes climbing up through the cataracts you could feel every ounce. On one occasion one of the boys was struggling up and was trying to exit over the rock on his right hand side. All the advice we could offer was going unheard. What he didn’t know, but what he was being told was that there were natural steps under the whitewater, carved by the action of falling the water on the granite. Of course he couldn’t see them because of the rush.
Finally he trusted his leaders and put his leg into the onrushing torrent and found solid footing. Thereafter he flew up.
The Psalmist writes, “Your way led through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.” (Psalm 77:19). This is not the comfortable world of ‘Footprints’, being carried through the tough times in the secure hands of Jesus, though I’m sure that happens sometimes. There are other times when the torrent threatens to overwhelm and sweep me away and all I’m looking for is a firm place to stand. I just can’t see one in the rush and the noise of the flood. It takes faith then to trust the things I’ve been told and to put my feet in the water and believe that there might be a useful path under all of this.
Sometimes stepping into the flood some crazy things happen. Some times the waters open and the river recedes. Sometimes I may be washed away. Completely. In a walk of faith there can be no guarantee of being carried through it to safety. Jesus wasn’t. He prayed it could be taken away. And ultimately committed his spirit to the one who had just a moment or two earlier, at the darkest point of his experience, turned his back on him. What an act of faith to commit his future to the one who had so lately turned his back.
Faith has no sure answer it seems to me and no guaranteed outcome, only that God will remain faithful. But it still requires risk of me, based only on how God has acted in the past. Anything else is walking by sight not be faith. Like wanting those underwater steps to rise up out of the falling water. Sometimes maybe…but not always.