What I learned from being dumped into a river
This month marks 11 years since my friend Goose dropped me into a river in Arkansas. I wrote about this a few years ago in the Clarion Ledger, but it’s worth a repeat. It’s one of my funnier memories from a mostly miserable time.
It was the year my “faith” crumbled, as mentioned in my last editor’s letter. In April of that year, Goose and I drove to my hometown in Arkansas, where he, my mentor Teddie Faye Raines, and a couple of men from my home church prayed over me.
The prayer time didn’t save me. Another couple months would pass before I genuinely gave my life to Christ. But I did get “baptized” during that trip.
The Two Stooges Incident of 2010 happened when Goose, Raines and I drove up to the Ponca, Arkansas, area — one of my favorite places on earth.
“That’s a pretty rock,” Goose said, looking down at the Buffalo River from the low-water bridge, one of our last stops of the day. “I like it. I think I want it for my granny.” He was always getting stuff for his granny.
The rock was white, about the size of a man’s fist — and a few feet under water, in the middle of the river. Deeper than you could reach without your whole body going under. Oh, and the water was freezing.
But Goose had a plan: From the bridge, he would hold me upside-down by the ankles, and I’d reach into the water and grab the rock.
Yes, dear reader, I agreed to this.
I rolled up my jeans and lay on my stomach on the bridge, my upper body hanging over. We started near the shoreline, where my hands could reach the river bottom and guide myself along while Goose wheelbarrowed me sideways.
It worked for a minute. My hands found a wooden fence under the water, and I balanced myself on that as Goose dragged me to the right. My shins were scraping against the bridge, though.
Then the underwater fence disappeared. The rock was still out of reach. I had nothing to balance myself with, nothing to grab. I just dangled, while Goose tried to situate my feet in his armpits in order to transport me the remaining couple of yards. (Raines took pictures, I think, but I’ve never seen them.)
First, Goose had me by a pant leg, then by an ankle. Then he’d lose his grip on a foot. He laughed and said he wished I hadn’t shaved my legs, so I wouldn’t be so slippery. Gross.
Finally, I said, “Just drop me in.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, it’ll be fine. Just drop me.”
So he dropped me. I went under and took hold of the rock, and emerged heavy, drenched and cold, but I was OK.
My phone was not. It was in my pocket.
You could call this incident a “sacrament by accident,” since I got “baptized” (phone and all!) when I wasn’t a believer yet. But the incredible thing is, God was in it. He knew I liked adventures, and that I’d happily take a frigid dip in exchange for a good story. He knew I needed a break from my past eight months of questioning Him. He knew I needed a slap of cold water to the face, literally, and two friends to laugh about it with me.
I don’t have a deep spiritual point to insert here, except this: Every moment is grace. God uses it all — the dark, the silly, and everything in between — and He loves us more than we can imagine.
Why else would He give me such a “wink” when I was keeping Him at arms’ length? Only love. Why else would He send His perfect Son to die for our sins, and then give us new life through His resurrection? Only love.
If you haven’t put your faith in Jesus Christ, please don’t wait any longer. If you have, enjoy looking back over some of the God-winks in your own life.
Oh, and always keep a bag of rice handy in case you drown your phone.
‘Must-reads’ in this issue:
● Our feature story on Jill Steenhuis, an artist living her dream in Provence, who’s coming to Jackson this month.
● Our cover story on Clinton entrepreneur Clay Mansell and his family.
● Brenna Weaver’s Tough Questions column on what to do when God has “gone silent”.