rivers, rapids, and what I learned about exchange while rafting
i ride the rapids for a reason.
well, that was rather cryptic. let me explain.
about a month ago, i went rafting with a youth group. the
guide on our raft asked us to think about the river and what we could learn
from it. at first i thought that was weird and a little too pocahontas-y--you
know, "colors of the riverbend" or however that song goes--but
because i enjoy thinking, i thought about it anyway.
and i realized that i am approaching a rapid very quickly--i
am going to switzerland--and that scares me as if it WERE a rapid. and it
frightens me, because people tell me stories about europe and horror stories
about exchange and ask me why on earth i would want to go until i'm not even
sure myself anymore. until i'm asking why. until i'm doubting ever riding the
rapid in the first place.
but there, on the river, i realized why i want to go. it's
for the same reason i want to ride the rapids. they are scary, yes, and they
are mostly optional, yes, and in some ways they also carry danger. but at the
same time, there are things you learn from the rapids that you never find on
the smooth water. there's a joy and courage and strength and exhilaration that
comes from riding the rapids--that feeling of victory and the thrill of being a
part of what you really want to do. and if this is my rapid, my adventure, then
i need to pursue it.
to put it another way: have you ever felt like maybe
everything was too easy? not too easy in the way that nothing is hard enough...
more too easy in the way that it's hard at the beginning, but after a couple
days/weeks/months it becomes easier. commonplace. and not hard anymore.
and haven't you ever longed for something that would present
a constant challenge? that would become your life, that would be something you
live day in and day out? something that wouldn't become easier, but that would
challenge you physically and mentally and socially all the time?
because i want something like that. i want to know that i am
being challenged and that i have a story worth telling. and for me, that is the
one thing that holds me to exchange--the fact that it is a growing experience
like nothing i've ever seen before.