On Monday I went to the post office and, to my delight, discovered that my cheap bathtub-toy-style inflatable kayak had finally arrived. My very first one. My own. I have some canoeing experience, but I’ve never kayaked.
I named him Gryffyn. Gryff for short.
After work, I locked up, crossed the street to my car, unpacked Gryff and unfolded him on the grass. The lake is right there after all. No need to drive anywhere to go for a paddle. Sweet deal.
After fiddling with the valves and fighting with the paddle (which came in 7 pieces), I donned my PFD, stowed my gear, hauled Gryff to the water line, and set out.
Now, after having watched a few hours worth of kayaking videos on Youtube, I was all smarty-pants knowing to balance my paddle on the back of my seat and use it for leverage. It kept me from tipping and let me settle into my seat quite comfortably. Besides, algae is already growing in the shallows and I have no desire to tip into that.
And there I was.
Me, Gryff, God, and the water.
I stuck close to the beach for the first little while, practicing forward strokes (catch, propulsion and recovery), sweep strokes (for turning), draw strokes, and back strokes (aka: “reverse forward”, but this really is just a snooty way of saying “backwards” to me). Eventually I turned west towards the David Thompson statue, paddled all the way across the bay (staying well within land on 3 sides should anything happen), and paddled back towards the beach while exploring the shore.
I want to say God and I had some profound moments out there. I want to say it was all mystical and deep, but the only depth I really connected with was the depth of the water. I want to say God came to me with a great message to share or lesson to learn. But it didn’t happen.
The water lapped against my dinky kayak, I fell into a rhythm of strokes, pelicans joined me now and then, the sun was warm on my face, and I took turns drinking in the silence and listening to music. Eventually I made it across the open water and began to enjoy the scenic shoreline up close.
Maybe I didn’t have to make it more than it was.
Maybe God was hitched on behind (or in front) soaking up sun and enjoying the view. Words or mega-experiences not required. Maybe God simply wanted to be with me. (Maybe not, since I’m learning that inventing our own justifications for events and calling them “reasons” can be deceptive or dangerous. So I’m still enough in my spirit now to understand that I could be wrong.)
Maybe God was in those f*!#$@#$ fish flies that kept pestering me as I paddled closer to the shoreline. Yeah sure they’re a part of creation, but that would really be a bummer.
All I know is, my first kayaking experience wasn’t this this incredibly mystical and profound experience changing the course of human events, and it didn’t have to be. I was out on open water, breathing lungfuls of fresh air, sunning myself in the afternoon sun, flexing my muscles, taking it all in. Sometimes we Christians get so wound up in right living, right doctrine, right behaviour, right causes that we totally forget — sometimes even poo-poo — the capacity to engage in stillness for the sake of being still. No need to desire or expect depth (I mean if something like that happens, great, but releasing the expectation for it is freeing in an of itself). There’s no need to burden ourselves trying to embrace a reason for everything, including simple acts of learning a good draw stroke.
Being still for the sake of being still — soul-cleansing as it were for the sake of cleansing the soul. I might already feel mightily cleansed, but sometimes embracing stillness for the sheer nonsense and absurdity of it all is exactly what I need.
It didn’t need to be more than what it was.
And what it was was very good.
I’m totally ready to shoot some Level 5 rapids. 😉