First, my tube hit a particularly sharp rock. The rock sliced a gash four inches long into the green plastic and in four seconds my tube deflated, my bottom dragging along the rocky creek bed.
No, that was second. First, my husband tied himself to our eldest who tied herself to the cooler tube and together their string of tubes like key islands dragged lazily behind while our youngest's tube, untethered, jetted ahead, me chasing her, Justin paddling his arms like a makeshift motor, neither of us accomplishing much as we tried to bridge the distance and save our second born from certain death in the approaching rapids.
Third, as I gathered myself and the remnants of my tube, aided by my husband and sister-in-law, my nephew, up ahead with his sister and two cousins and now only one adult between them, toppled out of his tube and floated down river three hundred feet, his father chasing him, yelling to the other children to grab a branch and hold on.
Our progeny spilled across the face of the river like marbles on terrazzo.
Finally, with much effort, we gathered them. We made rules about staying in tubes. We put one adult in the front and one in the back. We made my youngest share her tube with me because she loves physical contact with her parents and sharing this tube was her dream come true. As she is more than three feet tall, her body covered mine like a squirmy, wet blanket. Uncomfortable but safe we charged on.
And then we hit another patch of rapids and my tube, the one I shared with my daughter, hit a log, popped up vertical and dropped us into the water, our bodies pinned against the tube (turned on its side) which was pinned against the log by the mighty current. Trapped, completely unable to move, we waited for my husband who braved the rapids on foot, secured the tube, put Eve in it, and sent her down river. I took the rapids feet first on my bum. The next day my bathing suit seat would be ripped like my cat's favorite corner of the couch.
To be clear, this was not the tube ride we envisioned. For one, we envisioned deeper water, water you could swim in, maybe water with fewer life-threatening (and feet-killing) rocks. We didn't imagine rapids. We didn't imagine chasing our children's quickly moving tubes.
I'm thinking about this tube trip tonight, a trip that wasn't as bad as it sounds. And also was totally terrible and maybe worse than it sounds. I've been thinking about it and wondering if it's a metaphor.
Of course it's a metaphor. Everything's a metaphor...
When the tube ride wasn't terrible it was beautiful and peaceful. Sometimes the water was deep. We jumped from rocks and swam like mermaids. Always it was cold. The scenery--breath-taking. Our kids mostly had fun. Between moments of crazy, just before my tube popped, I got to enjoy an entire can of cold Diet Coke. I bonded with my sister-in-law and enjoyed a delightful hour with my seven year old literally on top of me. It was intimate. In good ways. No one got a sun burn. No one drowned. London caught a bug and saw dragon flies mating. Eve was brave. It was a good time that was also a little scary and very stressful.
I can't say I wouldn't do it again.
I'd do it differently, for sure, but I wouldn't rule it out.
I've been reading Ecclesiastes lately, about how life is absurd and how few things really last and how the only way to survive it all is to take joy in the moment because moments pass. According to Ecclesiastes and "the preacher" who wrote it, disaster and disappointment lurk around every corner. The preacher writes, "No one knows when their hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so people are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them."
Ecclesiastes is kind of a depressing book. But also not.
Because the preacher's just telling the truth. Life is bumpy. It's a vapor. And a whole lot of what we do here is chasing the wind. Or maybe chasing tubes. Life is tiring and never stops spilling out of our meticulously planned and rigidly overseen IKEA storage solutions for daily living. We just don't have boxes for everything, and the boxes we have are so frequently upturned.
Life is like my tube ride--full of the unexpected, full of the upsetting, full of sharp rocks looking to tear tubes. And while that has the potential to be devastating, it doesn't have to be. If we, like the writer of Ecclesiastes, are willing to accept these terms, to remember that rapids will come and bathing suits will be ripped, loved ones will get sick, jobs will be lost and depression will settle on our shoulders, we can also be quick to enjoy the moments when the river's calm and the sun is shining and the children giggle. We'll refuse to dilute those moments of joy with worry about what's up ahead.
If now is good, we'll enjoy it while it’s good.
I'm in a season of life right now in which things are good. My marriage is happy and healthy. My kids are at a golden age. They love their parents. They're mostly obedient. They're fun to be around. I have a great job. It helps people, it leads me closer to God, and I make enough money at it to keep doing it. I love my church. I love my city. I have good friends. I'm relatively healthy. My parents are healthy. My husband cooks dinner. We can afford to take vacations to cool places.
I can't tell you how thankful I am.
Sometimes though, weird as it may seem, I struggle to fully enter this season of satisfaction, success and safety. A scarred veteran of life's cruel nets and snares, I keep my eyes peeled, waiting for the next bad thing to happen, wondering what it'll be. I've lived long enough to know, the rapids are coming. I don't know how far up they are, but I don't kid myself. This peace and prosperity won't last forever.
Ecclesiastes supports me in my conclusion (disaster is inevitable), but challenges my practice. The preacher says, "When times are good, be happy" (7:14), not because they'll always be good, but because if you miss the good times waiting on the bad times you'll rob yourself of the opportunity to be happy. Look down river too far and everything lovely and fun and peaceful will float right by.
God intends for life to be enjoyed.
Sure, He also intends to discipline us and shape us. Yes, the Christian suffers a lot in this world. But you were made for pleasure, too. God wants you to eat and drink, to throw parties and sleep with your wife and enjoy the fruit of your toil. God likes laughter and fulfilling work and meaningful friendships and sweet drinks. He made them for us to enjoy them. He packs some seasons full to the brim with them.
When times are good, be happy. That's Bible.
Tonight I'm recommitting to embrace good days and weeks and seasons. I choose to live in the moment, laughing and savoring, full of gratitude and joy. I choose to lay back in my inflated tube, Diet Coke in my hand, sunshine on my face, my toes dipping in and out of 74 degree water, my kids giggles skipping across the water, fully enjoying the gift of good times, knowing that though the rapids are coming, they're not here now. And that's reason enough to be happy.