Quiet Calms The Rapids

Photo by Julie Thornton on Unsplash

The Power And Need For Quiet Reflection

by Eric Elkin

[The Lord] made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.
— Psalm 107:29

An overnight canoe trip was the highlight of every session during my first summer as a camp counselor in New York. The camp, Koinonia, was located not far off the Delaware River, one of the last wild and scenic rivers in the East.


The river was filled with obstacles. Fisherman built up rocks into a “V” formation to trap eel heading back out to the ocean. Large boulders filled the river. Hitting one of these with a canoe could destroy it. Then there was the force of the water. A river looks gentle from the shore, but the current is an unrelenting force with no off-switch.


The most entertaining of obstacles were the rapids. In the lore of Koinonia canoe trips, the Mongaup rapids were the most famous. The Mongaup rapids were rather gentle Class II rapids. However, when the reservoir gates were open, they quickly changed to a Class III or higher level rapids.


My first trip through these rapids with campers, we caught the rapids in more aggressive conditions. The smallest camper in our group was my passenger. The weight differential propped the front of our canoe up and out of the water. It compromised my ability to steer. 


We hit the first rapid head-on, but it swung our canoe to the side. The second wave caught us broadside and we swamped.



The waves caused the camper to panic. I made my way over to him and wrapped his arms around my head. His grip sent me down under the water. My body bounced off of the rocks below. Fear strengthened his hold on my head. Thankfully, I had been trained on how to remove a panicked swimmer from my head.


I was able to get my hand between his chest and my face and push him off. Once on the surface, I told him to relax and let the lifejacket do its job. Showing him how to float on his back helped him enjoy the river. Immediately, fear turned to entertainment as he laughed his way down the river. It was harder to get him out of the water than to free him from my head.


This event has remained fresh in my mind, even now thirty-four years later. Whenever life becomes overwhelming, and anxiety consumes my soul, it feels like a child wrapped around my head, and I am underwater. 


When I was younger, I never realized both the power and the need for quiet reflection. In the midst of the rapids of life, it can turn the most tumultuous waves into a gentle ride. It is in the quiet of prayer, the words, “[The Lord] made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed,” find their most profound meaning.


Click to read Psalm 107: 1-3, 23-32

Reflection Questions:

  • When have you felt trapped by water or life?

  • How did you overcome the feeling?

  • What does prayer look like to you?

  • How often do you find quiet time to reflect?

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