Paddling Upstream

Paddling upstream on a river can be grueling! But restoring damaged relationships doesn’t have to be. Make small changes now to avoid heavy maneuvers later and you’ll have smooth sailing!

“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice!

Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace.

And the God of love and peace will be with you.”

2 Corinthians 13:11

Have you ever tried to paddle upstream? I have. A friend and I had the grand idea to paddle my canoe down a river to a secluded hunting spot. With the nearest boat ramp being several miles away, and no vehicle parked at the other end, our plan was to then paddle back up stream to where we put in. Even though it was only a couple of miles, it was tough! At a glance, the river did not appear to be moving at a rapid pace, but river conditions can change quickly and it took a lot of strength and tenacity to get back to our starting point.

Unlike the journey in, where we mostly coasted to our destination, the trip back didn’t allow much room for sightseeing. While we did see some deer along the riverbank on the way back, there was no chance of stopping to gaze or we would be washed back downstream. A swig or two from a water bottle to re-hydrate was all there was time for. The trip back was focused mostly on perseverance and grit.

Rivers & Relationships

Rivers hunts in a canoe can be a lot like relational speed bumps between me and you. When we harbor grudges, build up negative thoughts, and have judgmental attitudes towards others, we tend to get so far downstream from living in peace in our relationships that no amount of paddling can get us back to the dock. The ill feelings compound and turn into contempt. The gossip and snide remarks turn into resentment. All this negativity makes for a fast-flowing current of anger that keeps pushing us farther and farther away from where we need to be. When we realize what is happening and decide we want to change course, it’s a struggle! Back peddling can feel like an impossible task.

Just Keep Paddling

When Andrew and I made it back to the boat ramp that evening, we were worn out. It was difficult, and we had to take a few breaks, but we made it. We knew we had no other choice. In the days after this trip, as I did more research on the area, I found that there were other places where we could pull a canoe out of the water downstream that weren’t as far away as I originally thought. With a little extra research and intentional planning, we might have avoided the struggle altogether!

It is the same with your relationships. If you plan ahead and recognize where your negativity might lead in the future, you can make small changes now to avoid heavy maneuvers later. Watch for the red flags, anticipate the triggers, and keep it within the buoys. If you can do that, your communication with those close to you will be smooth sailing!

You know what though? Even though paddling upstream on the river that day was hard, it was worth it! It was a long, hard process but it was well worth it in the end because of what we accomplished. We discovered a new, unpressured hunting spot to enjoy for years to come.

The journey towards healing in your relationships will be the same way. It will be tough! It will be a fight! But if you strive for restoration, you can live in peace (2 Corinthians 13:11). So, just grip the paddle and grin. It will be so worth it when your relationship is restored.


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