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  • Writer's pictureA Friend of Jesus


Updated: Dec 31, 2021

The Driver Sits In The Back

If you've ever gone for a ride in a canoe on a river you know that the driver is the rudder. Where the driver steers, the canoe goes. When I lived in Minnesota our church did an annual canoe trip in Iowa. One of our members grew up near this amazing river which was perfect for float trips. He and his wife lead the annual expedition. 20 couples signed up the first year. It grew to 30 couples the next year. Because my husband and I owned a Motel we were not able to go the first year. Summer was our busiest season and we didn't have any employees. The second year I talked him into letting me go by myself as the expedition leader's teenage son had an empty seat in his canoe. He relented and stayed behind with a temporary employee. Needless to say it was great fun. I am not outdoorsy. My motto is, "Nature, don't get any on ya!" However, floating down the river and having the occasional water gun fight along the way was somehow relaxing and a well-needed break from cleaning motel rooms. The fellowship was amazing! It was the first vacation I had had in 6 years.

The following year we sold the Motel. That year we both went on the canoe trip. I was excited at first and then as we began to put into the water it became clear to me that this was going to be a long 5 hour trip. My ex-husband didn't like taking instructions from anyone. He was there to have a water fight. He started the trip by tipping the canoe of a friend of ours who couldn't swim and was deathly afraid of the whole idea of being in a canoe for 5 hours. After everyone in sight scolded him, it set the tone for a very angry Italian with whom I would be trapped. The only outlet for his anger was me.

To save face we headed off down the river without hearing the instructions. We zigged and zagged all over that river. It wasn't long before the entire group passed us up. Everyone else seemed to be enjoying themselves, but with our back and forth down this river we fell behind and only caught up to the pack when they would stop for water fights or snacks. This frustrated him and the blame game began. He started yelling orders at me from the back of the boat. It was my fault that the boat was all over the river. "Paddle on this side. Paddle only on that side. Three strokes this side and one stroke that side. No you're doing it wrong." The year before when I was with an experienced canoeist, he gave me very few commands and we never went off course. In my mind I knew it was not me.

Five and a half horrific hours later the expedition leader stayed behind to make sure we were okay. When we met up with the couple, my husband was in the middle of a tirade about how I was not rowing properly. The wife of the leader quietly said, "The driver is in the back of the boat. The boat goes as the driver wishes. The passenger in the front is only there to provide manpower. If she wasn't in the boat, you would still be on the same course. Next time instruction is given, maybe you won't be too proud to listen."

Her chiding stopped the constant battery of accusations, and they stayed with us for the rest of the trip. I lived with the guilt of that canoe ride for months, if not years. I allowed those words he said to permeate my life. When anything went wrong, I immediately blamed myself remembering the failed canoe trip. That is NOT a good headspace. I would recommend never allowing that kind of nonsense to live inside your head.

Imagine Jesus in the back of your canoe. The ride might get bumpy but the canoe stays the course that the driver controls. You don't have to paddle. You can just sit there. But it is a good plan to work with the driver because, after all, it is your life. When I think about that day on the river, I always feel that this was the evidence of the condition of our marriage. God's design in a marriage is for the husband to be the head, the driver if you will. Our marriage was floating downstream while I cowered and he blamed. We ended up capsized and separated. I don't wish to lay blame, because I jumped ship before we capsized. I think it caused the capsizing. Instead of calling on Jesus to steer our canoe and living in faith, we struggled against each other and let the water take us where it would.

I haven't thought about that time for a years. Forgiveness has allowed me to forget a lot of the hurt. Now when I think about those things, they don't hurt me, but they remind me that when the driver is going God's way, the water is just a means to an end. Now that I am alone I Imagine Jesus as the driver of my canoe. He may one day put me into the canoe of another, but for right now we are traveling together on this river of life. It is a lesson that is years in the making. How silly I didn't learn it sooner. It was right in front of me this whole time.

James 3:3-5 "When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark."

Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight."

Matthew 8:27 "The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

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