Most people love to go to the beach. Me? Not so much. There are three things at the beach that bother me—sand, sun, and water. These, of course, are the three things many people love about the beach.
First, there’s the sand. It gets into everything and is hard to clean out. It’s irritating, scratchy, and often too hot to cross—especially in bare feet.
Then there’s the sun. My pigment-deprived, northern Italian skin-type can’t take much of it. The process my outer membrane goes through is burn-and-peel (then repeat). I’m not sure whether I hate the burn or the peel more.
Finally, there’s the water. I dislike any water that is not controllable—i.e., puddles, ponds, lakes, and oceans. They’re great to look at, but that’s as far as it goes. I try to stick with faucets and showers. They’re more my speed.
I say, “Nay, nay!”
The one that really gets me, however, is whitewater. Some people spend a great deal of time and money placing their lives in danger to go whitewater rafting. For me, that does not compute. Would I ever go on one of these excursions? As the late John Pinette used to say, “Nay, nay!”
Still, I must admit that whitewater is quite useful in another way. In keeping with Jesus’ tradition of parables and poignant metaphors, whitewater is wonderful imagery. We are often negotiating life’s cascades. They consist of situations that put us in one kind of peril or another. And so, occasionally we find ourselves in the whitewater of human existence. As an extension of who we are, the church also must travel these less than optimal waterways. It comes with the territory.
Unfortunately, the times in which we live seem to present us with more and more cataracts to maneuver. The waters appear to be growing extra treacherous while our raft seems to be collapsing. The torrents seem to be expanding to Biblical proportions. Instead of us shooting the rapids, they are shooting us.
I attended a clergy seminar recently during which the speaker said, “We are now in permanent whitewater.” That really hit me between the eyes. I think it would have bothered me even if I liked water.
“It feels apocalyptic.”
It bothers me because I believe he’s correct. The troubles and controversies never seem to end. We never seem to ease out onto the quiet waters of Lake Placid—with the warm breeze gently blowing and the soft beams of sunshine caressing our shoulders. Instead, it feels apocalyptic. Could it be the eschaton is near?
I prefer the relaxing sway of a hammock under a shade tree on a summer day. Being thrown into the chaotic mix of life is not always my first choice. Still, there is something to be said about the joy of the risk-taker.
Whitewater rafters seem to get a thrill out of navigating the unseen rocks through the foam and watery madness. Despite the turmoil, I must admit we are living in exhilarating times.
Still, I really hate water.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]