Desire has always been risky whitewater for me, full of rapids and shallows, rocks that create current, exhilaration, as well as the subtle danger and excitement of the eddy. I have entered an unknown strait needing new navigational skills, a different channel that listens, doesn’t avoid, ignore, or try to repurpose, but that embraces purpose.
My river as a child only becomes increasingly clear as I move further downstream. Growing up in a staunchly conservative church with an abusive father and broken mother who hid in the long ago shadows, I listened to sermons about chastity without a name or reason or hope, staying what was called pure with only the motive of pleasing a future husband. Isolated from everyone around me, adrift, the ways of my friends remained, mystery and secret society, one where they belonged and again, I did not. With no outlet during these dark, hollow days filled with visitation, bus ministry, youth group, Sunday School, Training Union, youth choir, concert choir, and any revival or missions conference rolling through the tundra, I turned to romance novels to feed the deep desires for connection that I was unconsciously terrified of finding. These novels sunk deeply into my already deformed young heart, promising a glittering reality that would fill and form with beauty, which would ease my wretched pain of betrayal and loss, lingering dimly on the edge of consciousness, the detritus that had already broken off in the chaotic, violent flow called home.
When everyone said, “Oh, high school boyfriends are no big deal; you will meet someone at college”, I believed them.
I tried to ride the current, tried to hope in the river, half-trusting, half-doubting, never fully anything.
I had never learned to be full but only to be drained.
So, on to two universities – one fundamental and independent, resting on cowering shame, the second, Southern Baptist, and a world away. One of the best decisions I made, this place offered me rest and possibility of change, of different and new.
When I left without a husband or a fiancé or a boyfriend, I dove headlong into the river, tumbling over and over down stream as I screamed and raged and cried at this god and this promise and these people. As my daughters have learned at camp, the key to success in white water when one falls out of whatever apparatus one has chosen is to “Keep your head up and point your toes downstream!” Having never received much information about creating a life – about living – I didn’t know this fundamental principle, so I fought the current and banged against rocks and the unknown debris of my life that floated in the water with me, creating gashes and scars, ultimately, one day scarring those that I love.
After marrying, the white water nightmare began.
While the details of any of our sexual abuse matter little to anyone other than us, they need to matter intensely to us because they create eddies in the river. For those who have never rafted, eddies occur near large rocks in the middle of a flowing river, seemingly calm spots with little noticeable movement unless you land in one. Instantaneously, calm turns to turmoil and exhilaration into danger when you find yourself flipped out of your raft or inner tube only to be thrashed on the rocks as you plummet downstream, awaiting rescue of any sort.
At first, my eddies were relationally based, hoping, dreaming, wishing (for those were all the same) for someone who would deliver me from my wreck. The man I married suffered because of these delusions, even to the point of separation and divorce, me still clinging to wishing, hoping and dreaming.
But God, Who is rich in mercy. After friends, therapists and lovers of God unveiled my particular attraction to unstable and dangerous eddies, I apologized. Yes, it is that simple. There is more, but truth is usually not that complex. It’s just hard. And this kind man chose again to take the risk to join our rivers of hope and desire, knowing that love involves pain – not only pain, but not without pain. And on a beautiful May day in the middle of a garden, we said again, I choose you.
Mercy runs deep.
These days, eddies show up as flashbacks and memories in a gentle and kind place where they can be navigated with new skills, yet skills older than the world. And sometimes, they still turn the raft upside down and I float along. Now, I embrace the knowledge, Keep your head up and point your toes downstream.
Know the end that you want.
Keep your head up. Up.
There is no other place to look to for rescue.
Desire runs deep, even in eddies, and Hope looks up.
Sue Kranz considers herself mostly grateful and humbled these days. She lives in central Florida with dreams of the mountains, Montessori, and a simple life of beauty and imperfection, inviting those around her to taste and see and to not be afraid.