The Legend of Grey Owl
Years ago when I served as a youth minister up in Canada I decided to take a group of my young guys on a canoe trip. It was a weeklong trip in the northern forest of Saskatchewan free of civilization and electronics. My plan was to bring with us about half of the food necessary for us to survive and count on filling the rest of the needed meals with fresh fish we caught. Thanks to God and a dead Indian by the name of Grey Owl we were able to look past my stupidity and find a cache of fish. We all learned a lot of valuable life lessons on that trip but one that stands out to me was on the day we crossed over to the north side of the lake. Since our avid canoeists were young, my intentions on this particular trip was to always stay within 50-75 feet of the shore. However because we had run into several delays throughout the day I made the decision to cut our time in half by crossing over the larger body of water in order to get to our destination by dinner. Besides it was a beautiful day and the lake was glass…or at least until we managed to canoe half way across it. From out of nowhere the clouds quickly gathered and the wind began to show its fury. Then came the dreaded white caps. What began as an easy trek evolved into a fight for this young crew – a fight to not quit and capsize. My 30 minute ‘time-saving-great-idea’ turned into a 150 minute ordeal of trying to stay afloat while moving forward. Tensions were high and so was the fear. With each wave our canoes would rock from side to side allowing more and more water to get in. In an attempt to steady the boat, I remember one of the teenagers lifting his paddle out of the water and laying it across his lap. It was a reflexive response that made perfect sense to the mind when you’re trying to gain control of your surroundings, but in the world of canoeing it’s a surefire way of capsizing during a storm. I was proud of our guys that day. We were in it to win it. They fought the good fight, outlasted the waves and worked like dogs to get to our destination.
Being a preacher I gained a lifetime of messages from this trip including canoe trips in the years to come. I believe we all have a destination or dream that God has placed in our heart and to get there we have to set for ourselves ‘mini destinations’ or goals. So often in life what appears to be smooth sailing can quickly transform into some pretty bad weather – and that’s when life gets tough. If we’re not careful our reflexive response will be to stop rowing and start shifting our thought and energy towards steadying our boat. If there’s one lesson I learned from my canoe trips, I learned to never attempt steadying the boat in bad weather. When the winds get high you’ve got to hit the waves head on and dig that paddle in deep. You have to keep moving forward. It’s either fight or flight! Adrenaline is our God-given ability to fight; hope is the God given stamina. So let that courage rise up. Get your faith back and let your goal drive you forward.
Here’s 3 reminders that help me in life’s storms:
1. It never looks like it’s going to look
2. Always keep your eyes fixed on the end game
3. Just keep rowing
Psalm 42:11 (The Message Translation)
Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God — soon I'll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He's my God.