Vision from the Seat of a Kayak

As many of you know, I am a bit of an outdoor adventurer. Over the last decade and a half I have embarked on a number of multi-week cycling pilgrimages covering large swaths of territory in the West, across parts of Europe, the Middle East and even an overly ambitious trek up to the base of Mt. Everest on my two spoked wheels.

kayakI am pretty sure my next big purchase is going to be a kayak. How I lasted seventeen years living next to our spectacular Oregon rivers and bays without buying a kayak is a mystery to me! I am not an expert at kayaking, but I have become quite the expert at over-working a metaphor. And I have decided that river kayaking is the right metaphor for how I am exercising leadership in the presbytery at this time.

I was pondering this with a good friend recently as I was trying to make my way through the Mt. Everest-sized expectations I sometimes feel in this position. I was talking about how much of my work is to personally stay grounded. He smiled at me and said, “That’s odd. You are a man in constant motion. Are you sure ‘grounded’ is the right word?”

kayak in canyonThat’s when the metaphor of the kayak came to me. I realized I needed a better metaphor that fit a person and a presbytery that is constantly changing, in motion, evolving and transforming. We don’t need to be grounded like an airplane that is going nowhere; we need to be centered and balanced like a kayak that is riding the waves and following the currents of the Holy Spirit!

Here is are some thoughts that the kayak metaphor sparked about what it means to lead, guide, and serve our presbytery in this particularly Pentecostal, Holy Spirited moment:

  • I am glad to take us down the river, but I will not respond to overtures to turn our kayaks around and battle to defy the currents by paddling frantically upstream. That is an invitation to exhaustion and failure;
  • I will gladly spend as much time as is needed to help us understand the direction of the river, the currents, the dangers, the opportunities and the resources needed to successfully navigate a Class 4 whitewater experience;
  • Kayaking is not about just letting the water take you where it will; kayaking is about using the force of the water to propel you downstream and using the oars to navigate around dangers and find the best line through rough waters;
  • A kayaker assumes that she can’t change the course of the river; she can only change the course of the kayak;
  • Expert kayakers talk like religious mystics—kayaking is a river dance where one’s body, boat and water are all flowing in a sacred rhythm;
  • It’s always better to plan a course of action before the rapids than it is to freak out in the midst of the rapids;
  • Big kayaks are less impacted by individual waves in a river; small kayaks are more responsive and maneuverable.
  • Kayaking back up a river is a whole heck of a lot of work, but leads to a known destination; kayaking down the river leads to an unknown destination, but is a whole heck of a lot more fun!

I am glad to be part of this adventure with you!



2 thoughts on “Vision from the Seat of a Kayak

  1. I love your use of this metaphor!
    My mind is trying to find useful my experience of rolling a kayak – cold, startling baptism. If one keeps the rhythm and has muscle memory to continue the paddle stroke, one may turn up and continue forward. But, when one
    freezes, and loses the rhythm, the only way out is to pop the skin and get a fuller reminder of our baptism unto death…?

    Liked by 1 person

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