For the first time, we split the family up between 2 canoes: Toby, Abi, Ellie and Dan in one canoe (Team A) and Noah, Anna and I were Team B in the second canoe. Neither Anna or Noah had ever used a paddle before, and I am rather inexperienced, particularly when it comes to the job of steering the boat. We crashed into a few things and got turned around a few times (though not upside down, mercifully!), but everyone had so much fun! I realized that this is my favorite family activity, and Toby and I recalled one of our very favorite dates - the 2 of us canoed at Eden Mill at dusk, with a delicious picnic dinner, and enjoyed watching the bats fly overhead and a beaver swim by.
This trip also brought to mind the last session of our premarital counselling, something about how marriage is like a boat. We don't remember much of where that analogy went, but here are some things God showed me during our canoe trip about family relationships and boating.
- No one does this right at first, but there is opportunity to improve and grow. At first, the kids and I bumped into a fair number of things, but less so by the end of our trip. After getting some steering tips from one more experienced than I (i.e. Toby), I was better able to steer my craft and enjoy the trip. It made me think about how necessary it is, whatever new thing we are embarking upon, to ask for help when we don't know what we are doing. In the early years of marriage and at each new stage of family life, don't expect to know how to do "this" perfectly. Ask for help, keep doing your best, and cry out to God for grace and wisdom. As Christians, we live in a community of believers that we can go to for help and encouragement - why not make use of such a rich resource?
- Everyone has a role to play and each role is important. The first time Toby and I ever took our canoe out, I somehow ended up spending some time in the back (stern). I can't remember if it was my idea or his (probably mine), but I do remember it was hard work. And I learned - not all jobs are created equal. It may not be a popular idea in our egalitarian culture, but there are responsibilities in marriage and family life that God calls and equips men to do, and those He ordains for women to do. Neither is of less importance than the other or more meaningful - each job is not only critical, but when the right person is doing their job, it leads to greater success and enjoyment for all in the boat. Now, for you non-boaters, a quick overview: in a boat, the guys in the stern leads and steers the boat, but he depends on the bow man to keep a keen eye out for dangers and possible interruptions in the water. Both jobs are work. If I behaved like someone just along for the ride when in the bow, we'd be in the reeds more often than not. If I tried to take over and steer the boat, I'd be fighting the rightful leader in the back and struggling to do a decent job - the rudder is always in the rear! Basically, when each of us does our job, we do a better job of staying on course and enjoying the trip.
- Spend some time on your knees. We learned from a good canoeing book that it can be very helpful to paddle down on one or both knees, especially when you need to dig in hard to navigate through a rough spot. I suspect we would all do well to spend more time on our knees before our King as well, especially when we need grace and wisdom to navigate our own difficult waters.