The question arose among the oddly diverse ladies whom God has scooped me together with…whether God has a specific will for your life or a general will.  Whether, if you have before you, for example, two equally appealing job opportunities, God would tell you, “Only one choice is my will for you,” or if He would say, “They’re both good; go for it!” The specific argument says, “There is one person you must meet or one thing to learn so you must choose correctly or you’ll miss God’s will,” while the broader debate says, “God is going to get you where He wants you to be, so relax and enjoy the ride.”

It’s not my intent to defend either argument here, but I will share my ponderings while recently kayaking a fairly tame section of theNew River.  (And let me just add here that I have determined, through a couple bloody incidents, that it is not God’s will for me to engage in death-defying kayak expeditions!)

So, picture me in my orange kayak, leaned back, bare feet propped on the cockpit rim, just watching the blue sky and the trees, listening to the birds. My girlfriend and I are chatting about recipes and dogs and deep spiritual things while the guys lollygag behind fishing. Neither of us is paying much attention when we hit one of those tricky ripples—the kind where you need to choose your course or, oops, you’ll snag on a hidden rock. I’m better prepared when we hit the next ripple, and I maneuver into what I think is the fastest current only to have my friend pull ahead of me with no apparent effort.

Aha, I think, here’s life in the Spirit: a river!  For a time, you get to glide along in perfect contentment, but eventually, you’ll hit a ripple, and you may have only a split-second to choose your course. One course may be more fun (and potentially get you wet!); another may be safe, but boring. You can get snagged for a time through no fault of your own; you can work hard and still fall behind.

You get the picture, I’m sure.

Here’s what happened next:  we floated to the only Class One on this section of river, more like a single-step fall with lots of rocks.  Not death-defying, by any means, but it can be tricky.  My girlfriend was paddling ahead and tried a new course through the rapids, toward the right-hand side; she slammed sideways against a large rock.  My husband took the easy route along the left bank and went back to fishing. Having been this way before, I knew the course most likely to be fun, and I hit it and laughed and hollered my way through, near the center of the river. Turned around to check on my friend, and she was hard-stuck, wedged against the boulder by the current.

I started paddling toward her, making some progress against the current, when she yelled, “Help! I’m taking on water!”  My husband looked over nonchalantly and declared, “Got a fish on; be with you in a minute.”  Her hubby, still above the rapids and tying on a hook, was totally unconcerned.  I paddled harder, muttering to myself to wear shoes next time, because we both were surely going over if I tried to knock her off the rock.  Luckily, with a great heave, she pushed herself out of peril, and no rescue was needed.

My point is that I was willing to help my friend, even if it meant getting wet.

Anne Lamott, in Traveling Mercies, quotes her pastor as saying, “…the world sometimes feels like the waiting room of the emergency ward and we who are more or less OK for now need to take the tenderest possible care of the more wounded people in the waiting room, until the Healer comes. You sit with people…you bring them juice and graham crackers.”

What the river taught me is this: whether you’re waiting to hear from God on His specific will or stepping ahead in unperturbed confidence, listen well to what the Spirit says in 1 Peter 4:7-10.  No matter where you are, God’s will is for you to pray and be kind and serve with your gifts.