At the canoe shows, I like to watch people who stop to admire my husband’s and his brother Hugh’s Sea Wind canoes. These hardy vessels were both built by the famous Michigan paddling pioneer Verlen Kruger. The boats have handsome lines and a certain robust utility about them, and have rightly earned their reputation as having “cavernous storage and bombproof construction.” They can even be joined with a cross arm for catamaran sailing on windy days. Some of the folks-usually men- are seasoned and avid paddlers, and the conversation wags excitedly back and forth around paddle characteristics, dry bags, portage-ability, steering, and stowage. But, by far, most of the people who stop by simply stare at the canoes with their bright yellow sail with what always transmits as a deep longing.
I resonate with that feeling of “I wish I may, I wish I might…” For one, the Sea Wind is a one-man canoe, so I cannot trip along with the men unless I get my own boat. For another, the boats weight 70 pounds, and the gear upwards of 200-300 pounds. I cannot physically carry that much on portage, and the first rule of wilderness adventure is that the group is as weak as its weakest member. More importantly though, the brothers’ yearly adventure trips are wilderness getaways that they’ve shared for 30 years or more, a time so sacred to their deep relationship that I really have no right to intrude. It’s okay, though. We all still paddle together plenty of other times each year.
No, the longing I observe is of the person who wants to be more than a casual weekend paddler who haunts the canoe shows. Who yearns to seek out true wilderness and pit him/herself against the fickle elements of nature, to share the nighttime stars with the moose and the bear. This person wants to do exactly what the brothers do, but can never get past the dreaming.
In all my years as a college professor and academic advisor, I had certain students with the same problem-they thought they wanted something quite badly, but simply could not summon the wherewithal to do what it took to make it happen. The biggest impediment was almost always their lack of confidence that they could, in fact, do this thing. As a result, they took few risks, settled too early, failed to do the hard work required, and missed out on a lot of life’s adventures. Of course, this same lack of confidence holds any of us back in myriad situations. We won’t risk the adventure of a job change, a move out of state, or going back to school to finally study the one thing we always loved. We long for a change we haven’t the grit to embrace and see through to its rewarding end.
I have to say that I think God himself is a risk taker.
He risked becoming a man in order to put the world back to rights. He certainly takes risks on us every day. The Bible is FULL of fragile people God bet on when they thought they couldn’t; just take a look at the weak-kneed lives of Moses, Jonah, and Peter. But, God equips us in every endeavor to which he calls us. And this is the secret: the strength is never our own, but God’s! What have you always wanted to do, felt called to do, but were afraid to try? Maybe it’s time to get in the boat, stop wishing and start paddling!
I wish I may, I wish I might, have the strength to start tonight.
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 Phil Peterson. All Things are Possible: the Verlin Kruger Story: 100,000 miles by Paddle. Adventure Pulbications. Cambridge, MN. 2006. p.257.