Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Raging Rapids

Written by: on November 2, 2020

Regret hits me as soon as I let go of the rope.

The current of the river is too much as it drags me and pulls me every which way. I desperately scrounge around the bottom of the boat, looking for an oar or a paddle or something I can use to correct my poor decision. To my utter horror and despair, there’s nothing in the boat.

I’m left to the mercy of the river.

I hold on for dear life, my knuckles bone white as I clench the wooden sides of the boat. Water splashes in my face as the boat rocks every which way.  My stomach turns and nausea settles in.

Please God.

Knowing’s Edge is already a tiny splotch on the horizon. The boat picks up speed and the shore races past me. A dense fog rolls in front of me and my heart starts to hammer in my chest. I can hear the splash of rapids as water breaks against God knows what inside. What’s waiting for me in the fog?

It’s foreboding, terrifying. I can’t go in there. I lean over the stern of the boat, trying my best to paddle back with my hands.

Never has there been a more impossible task.

The fog is getting closer and closer with each passing moment.

I scream, covering my eyes and sliding as deep as I can into the hull of the boat.

The fog washes over me, I’m thrown every which way, hanging on for dear life and…

…and everything grows still. The sound of the rushing current becomes a soft gurgle as I float along at a gentle pace. Cautiously, I stand to try and get my bearings. The fog is so thick that I can’t see my hand in front of me, so I sit down again.

Time seems to stop in the fog. There is no connection to the world outside, it is simply a place to be, a place in-between…something. I begin to reflect on my Journey, from the Seeker who questioned my identity, to the Pilgrim who led me out of the Tower.

To the first sight of the fog, to that important step, to getting lost, to the feeling of abandonment as the Pilgrim disappeared.

To the taste of wine at Knowing’s Edge, to the laughter with the Edgelings, to the tears as they left.

To the Shadow who looked me in the eyes. To the Longing to return. To letting go of the rope. To the fear of the current into the unknown.

And here I am. Sitting in the boat in the middle of a dense fog. Not knowing where I’m going and unable to do anything to guide my own way.

“I can’t do anything about this, can I?” I ask aloud.

The water around me seems to chuckle and gurgle a watery, “Nope.”

“Nothing at all?”

Gurgle gurgle.

I pause for a moment and a smile creeps on my face.

For the first time, no one is telling me what to do – even I can’t tell me what to do.

For the first time, no one is looking at me for what I’m supposed to know.

For the first time, I can actually breathe.

For the first time, I’m free.

“I guess I’m just here for the ride at this point.”

Settling in, the soft chuckle of the river lulls me to sleep.

About the Author

Dylan Branson

Small town Kentuckian living and learning in the big city of Hong Kong.

9 responses to “Raging Rapids”

  1. Shawn Cramer says:

    I assume capitalizing “Longing” was intentional? I think it’s appropriate because it speaks to the innate desire of the human heart. Disciplines even like human geography are searching for a vocabulary to describe the connection with people and place. They have yet to utilize the potential of that word – longing.

  2. Greg Reich says:

    Your story reminds me of what I experienced a few months after I left corporate America. It was a combination of panic, freedom and excitement. There were rapids at times but the ride was unforgettable. What part fo your current journey fits you description of “I just here for the ride.?”

    • Dylan Branson says:

      Greg, I’m in the space of trying to discern what my own next steps are (I think I have been for a little over a year now). I’ve actively tried to take steps in directions to find that the current was pulling in different ways. I think with Covid, I’ve been forced to stop searching and allow for more…waiting. I can see the current potentially shifting in a new direction, but maybe it’s also just a slight deviation from the current path that may not play out. So I’m just kind of sitting in my inflatable inner tube, drink in hand, and enjoying the flow for the moment haha.

  3. Jer Swigart says:

    I appreciate the connection between the discovery of freedom and the characters ability to rest at last. It’s as though they are no longer diffusing energy unnecessarily in response to the insight and invitations of others. Freedom…then solitude…then rest…and then the journey continues.

  4. Darcy Hansen says:

    Amazing how in the relinquishment of control breathing can finally happen. I call that living with unclenched fists. It is hard to open those hands, but oh the goodness that comes when we do. How do you see this story playing out in your community context? This Expert is alone for much of his journey, but I know you’ve mentioned the importance of community support in facilitating the disorientation that comes with finding freedom.

    • Dylan Branson says:

      I’ve found that navigating the uncertainties of the journey is easier with other people at times, while at other times it’s easier to take parts of the journey alone.

      Sometime last year, I was asked to lead a team to Mongolia for my church in the summer. However, when the Covid outbreaks started we were living in the tension of not knowing what was going to happen. What I found was that I wanted to know what was going to happen so that I could lead my team with a sense of assurance. “Yes! We’re going to go!” or “No, we’re canceling it.” Thankfully I didn’t have to navigate those decisions alone; my co-leader and I were constantly checking in with one another and with the organization to provide updates as we could. The best answer we could give when our team asked questions was simply, “We don’t know. But when we do, we’ll let you know.” But what was so unique about this crew was that they were actually okay with it. We were all in the boat being pulled every which way with the current, not knowing where we’d end up. They rolled with the punches wherever they landed, and for that, I’m grateful. They showed me what it was like to live in that in-between and being comfortable with it.

  5. John McLarty says:

    What an amazing feeling- to reach a place where anything really can happen. It’s not easy to just be along for the ride, but you’ve captured the peace we can find in that place. And then, calling on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “to sleep perchance to dream.” That was “the rub” for him as he contemplated suicide. Maybe the chance to dream is the gift you need at this leg of the journey. Rest well!

    • Dylan Branson says:

      “Maybe the chance to dream is the gift you need at this leg of the journey.”

      I know that I’ve been caught up in my own busyness that I’ve forgotten what it is to dream. We get stuck in our niche and lose sight of why we were there in the first place as the world sucks away the joy and dreams we once had. How have you kept dreaming, John?

  6. Chris Pollock says:

    Mistakes can be tough to take, for sure. Man, there would be no learning without them?

    With big mistakes in spotlights sometimes, how can we represent embrace and forgiveness?

    The darkness without and the darkness within seems to be built by division, walls ‘against’, shame.

    Letting go of the fight could be a surprise for the darkness, who seems to be built by the fight, the struggle.

    Love the depiction of relief that you shared toward the end of your post. And, such surprising relief as to bring laughter!! Cool.

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