**Update** I have finally posted the pictures that go with this post. (That's why it's on my blog twice!!)
This past weekend we had the wonderful opportunity to visit Star Valley, Wyoming with my parents, siblings, and nephews. We had such a wonderful time - thanks Mom & Dad!
Saturday morning, we decided to float the Hobak (Snake River), just east of Alpine. It is an 8-mile float, taking anywhere from an hour-and-a-half to two hours. The scenery was absolutely beautiful. There were ten of us in the raft, seven of which were paddling. My husband, Derik has been white-water rafting several times, and thus became our guide. We were told to listen to Derik's instructions and do as he told us to do, when he told us to do it. He understood how the river ran, and how to best maneuver the raft and keep everybody safe.
Derik explained how to paddle (dig deep), how to sit in the boat (keep your feet inside), and what to do if you should happen to fall out (keep your feet downstream & ride it out). These all seemed to be such simple instructions. Could it really be that difficult?
The first half of the float seemed mostly uneventful. My nephew, Liam bounced out as our raft went over a rock that nearly broke the surface of the water. There weren't any rapids around, and Liam was able to grab onto one of our paddles and get back on board without any trouble. At this point, Derik again instructed on the necessary steps to take if one should fall overboard. We had fun learning how to maneuver and screamed with delight as we splashed over the smaller white-water. I even became so comfortable that I allowed one of my feet to dangle in the water over the edge of the raft.
Although Derik hadn't ever floated this particular stretch, he was cautious, and listened to the other guides as they floated along-side or would pass by us. He became aware of the two "rapid" spots to watch for: Kahuna & Lunch Table. As we approached Kahuna, Derik again instructed us to lean forward and paddle hard all the way through the rapids. We hit the first big wave and as the boat lurched forward, I suddenly found myself in the water. I don't remember it ever happening. Although the water was cold, it was suddenly the furthest thing from my mind. The water was coming over me so swiftly that I couldn't manage to get a full breath in before another wave crashed over me. I was shocked at how quickly it all seemed to happen. I didn't remember falling: I was just suddenly and completely consumed by water, and had absolutely no control of anything around me. I thought, "Okay, put your feet downstream". Then what?? I started panicking, and then began to hyperventilate. Suddenly, I heard Derik's voice, as clear and calm as ever. He wasn't shouting at me, but it was as clear to my mind as if he were right there next to me, speaking gently into my ear. He was the only voice I ever heard. As it turns out, the rest of my family were in major panic mode. They were all shouting at me, some screaming in terror. I never heard any of these voices. I just kept listening for Derik. I couldn't see him anywhere, but I knew he was there, and was very aware of me and what I needed to do. He continued to remind me: "Keep your feet downstream. Hold onto the paddle. Keep your head up. Ride it out. We're coming. Hang in there, we're almost there." He just kept talking, reminding me that he was there.
And suddenly, he was. They finally managed to catch up to me long enough for me to grab the edge of the raft, only to discover that the only person that had their paddle ready was Derik, and we were headed straight into Lunch Counter...backwards. I held on tight, and watched with amazement at how well he maneuvered the boat, and keep my family's emotions under control. We were so blessed to have been kept safe that day.
As we were able to look back later and discuss what happened, I was only in the water for about 2 minutes. Although everything moved so fast, it seemed much longer than that. There was even a point when Derik might have been able to clutch my life jacket and pull me in, but as a guide, was also obligated to stay with the boat so that others would not end up in the water as well, including Nathan. (We were sorely misguided by the rental people - they told us that the water was calm enough to take Nathan...they were so very wrong.)
I feel like there are so many angles that I can relate this story:
1. The Holy Ghost is our own personal guide. He is there to help direct us to safety, if only we will listen. Listen to the still, small voice. Amidst all the chaos, sometimes the only thing we can hear is the voice of the Holy Ghost. All we have to do is listen, and obey.
2. Our prophets & church leaders are continually repeating instructions for our spiritual safety. Are we really listening? Do we heed their council? Could it really be that difficult?
3. The rapids represent sin. I don't remember falling, or being swept into the rapids. I just suddenly found myself there. I think this can apply to our daily lives. Everyday we are faced with rapids, and how quickly they can consume our lives. Will we be prepared? Will we have heeded the council that was given to keep us safe from harm, or will it be too late? It can start out as such a little thing, feeling so secure in ourselves, and not keeping our feet inside the boat, and suddenly you're washed out by the first rapid.
4. Although Derik may have been able to pull me to safety sooner, he couldn't run the risk of being pulled into the water. Sometimes in wanting to help others, we find ourselves too close to the danger ourselves. We can't help others if we're in trouble also.