I’m a visual learner. So visual parables are especially helpful to teach and remind me things I should know and do.
For one of our activities during Youth Camp for the teenagers in our church congregation, we decided to tube down a portion of the South Llano River. The state park had tubes to rent and a space enough for our group to have a shady picnic area near the river entrance. A couple of the adults in our group brought life jackets for everyone.
I love tubing rivers. It’s so relaxing and typically an easy experience. I got in the water last to bring up the rear to help any stragglers who might have issues.
Several of our youth had never tubed before, but one girl especially struggled. She struggled with her life vest. She struggled with getting on and staying on the tube. She struggled with floating. The entire trip down the river was a frustrating struggle for her. I admired her tenacity and determination to do what she felt was best for her.
Focused on the Goal
She really, really wanted to catch up to other girls who had formed a chain connecting their tubes together. Once she saw them connected and united, nothing else mattered. She was so focused on getting to them that couldn’t hear my advice of how to move her body in the tube to help her move down the river faster. She threw herself off the tube trying to swim to them.
When swimming didn’t work, I helped her back on her tube and she used her water shoes as paddles. Except she didn’t use the flat side/back of the water shoes as paddles, she used the front side which just scooped water and she didn’t go anywhere. She couldn’t understand my suggestion to turn her shoes around to the flat side, she just went from toe to heel and continued scooping. When I asked to have a shoe so I could show her what I meant, she said no and just kept scooping water.
When she finally gave up and put her water shoes back on, I showed her how to use her arms to paddle with the current. I took off like a flash down the river so I stopped paddling to wait for her to catch up. She turned her tube towards the bank and paddled right into the tree branches and grass, never hitting the current. When we got her out of that rut, she paddled again, right for the other side of the river and got stuck there.
She kept thinking that being out of the tube would work better. When it didn’t work better, she needed help to get back on the tube.
And you know what? Tubing down that river became a visual parable for me and I saw myself in her attempts to reach her goal in the best way she knew how.
I remember asking the Lord years ago what my purpose in life was. I received a direct answer, but I did not like that answer. I proceeded as I had been and found myself out of the current for my life and hitting the branches time after time and getting stuck at the bank again, and again, and again even when I felt like I was on the right path or going with the current.
By this time, the girls she wanted to connect with had lazily floated quite far downstream from us. I watched as her frustration mounted, but her determination to reach her goal never wavered.
After quite the ordeal and the other girls getting stuck once and then intentionally waiting for her, she finally reached her goal of joining as a chain with the girls.
The chain of girls included another leader so after she joined the chain, I sat in my tube and observed if they would need my assistance. I was happy to sit and watch for a moment. I slowly but surely floated away on the gentle current as they began to float with and help the girl who had never tubed before, as so many people have helped me on my river of life.
This friend persevered! She went down the river two more times with total success!
I found as I’ve listened to the Lord’s guidance, I’ve been able to traverse the river with success, too.
I Saw Myself in that Visual Parable
The Holy Ghost showed me myself in every one of her struggles. How often have I heard the counsel of One with experience, but continued to struggle, doing things my own way? How often have I been adamant that I was paddling correctly with the current but found myself stuck on the bank in the brush? How often have I forfeited the safety and efficiency of my tube thinking another way was better?
Yes, I saw myself in every one of her struggles on the river. And I silently thanked her for the visual reminder.
I’ve learned that if I’ll be still when I’m floundering about on my river that the Lord’s quiet direction comes. I can choose to continue the struggle or adapt to the directions. If I choose to adapt, His atonement’s enabling power magnifies my awkward, uncertain first attempts at following the directions. If I choose to continue to struggle to do things my way, He patiently waits to see how He can help ease the struggle and offers suggestions again.
1 The Lord is my ; I shall not .
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of for his sake.
4 Yea, though I through the of the of , I will fear no : for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.