Paddle Your Own Canoe

Canoe at Sunshine, Maine

The phrase to “paddle your own canoe” has been around since the mid 1800’s and conjures up ideas of independence, self-reliance, persistence, endurance and the belief that we control our own destiny! Several poems were written and entitled “Paddle Your Own Canoe”. Sarah Bolton’s contained an often partially quoted verse:

Voyager upon life’s sea,
To yourself be true,
And whatever your lot may be,
Paddle your own canoe…..

   I recently watched a season of “Alone”, a reality series about ten people who were simultaneously placed in separate, isolated, wilderness locations with minimal survival gear. The contestants’ goal was to survive the longest and win a half million dollars. They endured starvation, loneliness, severe weather adversity, and isolation! Most had the noble goal of bettering their families’ lives, but deeper reasons were divulged. They drove themselves to their physical and emotional limits in search of answers to questions they had about themselves. They needed proof that that they were caring, strong, capable, and worthy of respect, that they were valuable and good people despite their flaws and personal histories.

Their motives and questions are generic. We are all survivalists who face life differently, yet similarly. We waffle about while seeking purpose in our lives. We suffer and want strength to overcome. We have self doubts and desire affirmation. We want to know the “why’s” and “where” we are to paddle our canoes. Our choices (along with others’ choices) determine the course we take, and often the waters are rough.

Psalm 4 is a song with an answer and a solution for us: “But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him….. There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?” Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD! You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:3-8)

We long for joy, peace, and security. Although some temporary satisfaction is found in transitory material things and worldly pleasures (in “grain and wine”), a repentant life, centered upon and trusting God, will find “joy of heart” and will “lie down and sleep” in peace because He has lifted His light upon us, has shown us “good”, and secured us through the the sacrifice of Christ for us.

The Psalmist gives us the eternal perspective about who and what we need. “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (Psalm 23:1-6)

We paddle into safe waters when we paddle our canoes toward immortal God and ultimate answers!

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