A few weeks ago Gary and I went paddle boarding. We rented stand up paddle boards to paddle up a beautiful river to a hike which led to a stunning 100-foot. waterfall. Although anxious nerves filled me as we began the adventure, excitement also coursed through my veins in anticipation of the stunning scenery. I love seeing God’s creativity in creation.

The crucial feature of paddle boarding is the paddle. With the paddle one can steer the board and propel the board forward through the water. Gliding through the water offers a sense of exhilaration. The paddle both stabilizes and slices through the liquid barrier.

Paddle – a short pole with a broad blade at one or both ends to move a small boat, canoe, or stand up paddle boarder through the water.

As I paddled up the river I noted the strain on my muscles and the need to change my position periodically. I vacillated between standing, kneeling, and sitting while charting my course on the stream. Using the paddle, I moved forward. This caused me to ponder the ways we move through life with Jesus. The paddle with its broad blade reminded me of different spiritual practices I engage in my journey with Jesus.

While God, Himself, transforms His disciples, I must put myself in a place of receptivity to His movement within and around me. Lately, I find myself paddling through life with the spiritual rhythms of Scripture meditation by soaking in the Psalms, lament through embracing painful realities in God’s presence, journaling God’s stirrings and questions within my soul, and fellowship with spiritual companions for encouragement and counsel. Like paddles, these practices center my soul and allow me to engage with God as He conforms me to His image.

What sorts of spiritual practices comprise the “paddles” in your journey with God? 

Something I noticed about the paddle I used paddle boarding was how it differed from the kayak and canoe paddles of those sojourners on the water. Paddle board paddles extend different lengths to fit the size and needs of the person.

There are different kinds of paddles for different recreational activities. Similarly, different spiritual practices sustain disciples during different season of life. For the young mom, her paddle might look like a Bible verse daily flip calendar. Perhaps for the executive, practicing the examen offers insight and personal confession. For others, engaging in contemplative Scripture reading offers followers of Jesus space to slow in God’s Word and experience it from many angles. Practices vary for disciples; all aim at propelling deeper communion with God.

How have the “paddles” in your life changed with the seasons?

After hiking through tall grasses, on muddy paths, and over roots and rocks we made it to the waterfall. It was an adventure. Our stand up paddle boards awaited us for the return journey. We began with energy, but that did not last long. By this time, my arms and legs already felt weary and yet, our trip was long from over. Soon, the wind blew in our faces and the water rippled into small waves because of the increased air currents. Digging into the water took much effort. A few times, I lifted my paddle to take a breather only to realize that when I stopped paddling, I didn’t just stay still or continue coasting forward in the river, but experienced backward motion, losing any progress made.

Again, I mused about the cause and effect of the paddle.. The current of the water coupled with the wind pushed against us and our boards sending us backwards – ugh. What a metaphor for the spiritual life! Perhaps the thought that no or little effort in the spiritual life is neutral leads to the false narrative that once saved by faith in Jesus, all is well. The journey offers us so much more when we engage with God in our growth and transformation. Neutral activity actually translates to apathy which results in little or no growth in Jesus; maybe even spiritual backward movement.

The apostle Paul encouraged the church in Philippi to “continue to work out [their] salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in [them] to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” Philippians 1:12. Working out does not mean earn salvation, but reflects one’s position in salvation. We employ spiritual practices, a.k.a. paddles, to align with God’s will and fulfill his good purposes for our lives. Engaging the proverbial paddle causes our hearts to attune to our Heavenly Father which leads to conformity to His plans and purposes.

In what ways might you be “coasting” and not engaging a paddle with God?

With focus, I put the paddle into the cool water, engaging my whole being to move through the two-mile watery path. Spiritually, let’s put our paddles in the water by participating in practices that invigorate our journey with Jesus. Consider the season of life in which you live and if necessary, switch up your current rhythms to experience greater depth and connection with God. Allow the Holy Spirit to mold and shape you so that your life becomes an even greater reflection of Jesus Christ.

Enjoy paddling through life, taking in the scenery along the way as you explore, experience, and engage with the God of the universe and the Lover of your soul. 

Drips from the Word: Muse about these Bible verses. Let these truths impact your living.

Romans 12:2 –  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

2 Corinthians 3:18 –  And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Splashes from the Spigot: Drink from deep wells. Read these recommended books to fill your soul.

Ruth Haley Barton. Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation. Downers Grove, IL. 2006.

Richard Foster. Celebration of Discipline, Special Anniversary Edition: The Path to Spiritual Growth.  New York, NY. 2018.

Sprinklings of Truth: Soak in meaningful songs. Check out these music videos to lift up your spirit.

Kari Jobe with Cody Carnes. Holy Spirit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPPMSfCdUng

Evan Craft, Redimi2, Danny Gokey. Be Alright. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0t9-3CK-MBU