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The Safety of My Father's Hands

by Caleb Lewis

River rapids do not make the best kind of swimming.

I grew up in the backcountry of Arkansas surrounded by mountains, woods, hills, lakes, and streams. It was an ideal place for a kid to grow up, with plenty to do, plenty to explore, and so many places to go.

One of my family’s favorite places to spend a weekend was at the Cossatot—a high-speed kayaking river with constant rapids and waterfalls for  miles. The river was rated as level 5-6 rapids—a level only very experienced kayakers will attempt—and was about 200 feet wide.

The thing that made the river both extremely fun and dangerous was that it was riddled with giant rocks sticking high out of the water—so many, in fact, that one could walk straight across at almost any spot along the river by jumping from rock to rock.

In midsummer, when the water level dropped and the rapids slowed down, the river was a perfect water park. Long, shallow waterfalls made perfect waterslides, and we kids would play in them for hours. We’d start at the top of the river, swimming down the falls till it took us to its basin.

My story happened on one of these visits to this river when I was 10 years old. It was a warm summer day, and the river was much higher than usual—way too high to swim in, a fact that disappointed all of us kids.

However, that didn’t stop us from having our fun, and we quickly improvised, jumping across the rocks with our parents not far behind us. We were having the grandest time, just as we always did, despite not being able to swim. Climbing the giant rocks was equally entertaining to us.

As the day started to wind down, our parents began to call us in. We were obviously reluctant, but gradually began to make our way back. We slowly  climbed across rocks, which had now gotten quite wet from us walking on them, jumping across gaps we couldn’t step across. I, being the oldest, always helped my siblings across the larger jumps before going across myself, and had somehow ended up in the back.

Our dad had come out on river rocks toward us to increase the speed of our return, and he patiently waited as we made our way toward him. I was about halfway across when I lost my footing.

It was a small, smooth rock that I had stepped on—already made wet and slippery by my siblings’ wet feet having gone before me. I, being the careless 10-year-old that I was, made a daring leap, and as I landed, my foot slipped immediately out from under me, and I was thrown into the rapids.

I held on to the rock I had slipped on for a split second before being yanked downstream.

I screamed for help, being completely incapable of fighting the current, as I saw myself being pulled faster and faster toward a waterfall that would undoubtedly suck me under. My head went underwater for a split second, but just as it did I felt a strong hand grab my arm and yank me from the powerful river that had taken me in its clutches.

It had all happened in a split second, but somehow my father had traversed the distance between us, snatched my flailing limb as I flew by, and pulled me out to safety.

At the time, my 10-year-old mind didn’t think much of it. I merely looked up at my father and smiled as if I had known all along that he would always keep me safe. But looking back on the scene at this time in my life, I realize the significance of the event went far over my innocent, childlike understanding.

The world is to us as those powerful rapids were to me. We may find ourselves toying with the idea of it, playing near it, and getting dangerously close. And the closer we get, the more likely it will be that its treacherous power will suck us under.

Fortunately, we have another Father. One who we can rely on to always keep us in His care. It’s nice to know that no matter what happens—especially when the world’s dark clutches pull us under—all we have to do is call on Him, and He will pull us back to safety.

Caleb Lewis is a junior English major at Southern Adventist University, located in Collegedale, Tennessee. He enjoys gymnastics and music and attends Umpire SDA Church in Umpire, Arkansas.


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