Leaning In

As the bow of our raft started to plummet into a Class 4 rapid on the Arkansas River, my pulse quickened and my adrenaline shot up as I heard my guide shout, “Paddle forward! Don’t stop!”

My best friend and I were seated at the bow, in charge of setting the pace for the four other strangers to follow. If I were to fall out of the raft, I had to trust that one of them would help rescue me. Before the tour began, I doubted their ability to do so when they all shared that they didn’t know how to swim.

After we broke through the crest, I caught my breath from a full body hit of 40 degree water and immediately turned around to question my guide’s instruction. Was that a joke? Surely he just wanted to get a kick out of the panic on my face as I leaned my body into the wave.

These dynamics were a set up all too familiar to my nervous system. Excitement for a journey, a support system I couldn’t actually trust, and a guide that seemed to enjoy my suffering.

This trip marked two months of having moved to Colorado to start a counseling practice with my best friend. I dreamt of moving to the Centennial State since I was a little girl. Colorado represented an adventure, connection, and aliveness for which I was hungry.

Even though I made a thoughtfully calculated business decision, multiple scouting trips, and sought counsel from trusted friends, therapists, and advisors, my body believed the chance of this dream actually succeeding was too good to be true. Even more vulnerable than making an informed decision was risking to trust in God’s provision and protection along the way.

For the last many years, I have been in the throes of my own abuse recovery. A part of that has included healing from harmful spiritual dynamics. Throughout the dark season of my abuse, I possessed an eagerness to trust that God would provide me with support, growth, and community. Instead, I found myself isolated, traumatized, and devastated. A kind therapist of mine once asked, “Emily, what has trusting God for provision and then being abused done to your relationship with Him?” In short, a lot.

It has taken patience, grief, strong therapists, and agonizing body awareness to fight the belief that God is taking advantage of my desire and to tease out that the harmful choices made by humans are not a reflection of the character or desires of God. It has been kind that He has provided tangible provisions in the last few months that I cognitively recognize as Him. It has been even kinder that I have done enough work where these wrestlings do not bring about shame when chalking the movements of God up to luck.

I have come to believe that faith is both a gift and an active choice.

Answering my question, my guide yelled out, “When we dip into the rapid, that’s when I want you to dig in and paddle through it. The more you lean into the drop, the less chance we have to flip. Don’t stop until I tell you. Remember, the number one rule today is to trust your raft guide!” He possessed a rugged confidence that I found myself relieved to trust.

My rafting guide taught me a lot about Jesus that day. If I dare to stay, leaning into the waves, I will make it safely through to the other side. If I panic and mistrust him, I might actually do more damage to myself and my crew.

May I have the grace to choose to trust that as I choose to stay in the boat and lean in, God will guide me through the rapids of life.

Emily Doane comes alive through deep laughter and meaningful connections. She works as a licensed counselor and co-founded Sunergos Counseling Collective in Colorado Springs. Outside of the counseling room, she enjoys spending time with friends, cooking new recipes, hiking, and playing pick-up sports.