Going Deeper at Haviland Lake

By Susannah Dorfsmith

The greenish-blue waters of Haviland Lake lapped gently against the rocky shoreline.  I was afraid; I couldn’t deny it.  New experiences always make me nervous.  So, as I eased my end of the kayak into the water, I gave my brother a wary look.

“I don’t know about this,” I said.  “Are you sure I won’t tip over?  And what if I can’t steer?”

“You’ll do fine,” Daniel assured me with a smile.  “Just get in.  I’ll lead you with my kayak and show you how to steer.  And if you can’t do it, I’ll just grab your kayak and pull it.”

Slowly I lowered myself into the narrow seat and picked up the paddle.  Daniel gave the small craft a gentle shove, and suddenly I found myself floating on top of this 80-acre glassy surface.  Haviland Lake glistens at the foot of the surrounding majestic mountains and towering ponderosa pines at an elevation of 8,705 feet in the San Juan National Forest just north of Durango, Colorado.

As my kayak teetered gently from side to side, I tentatively tried to paddle like my brother had earlier instructed me.  Dip one end of the paddle into the water and pull back; dip the other end into the water and pull back; dip the other end into the water and pull back.  Suddenly I started drifting sideways.  Startling shouts from the shore alerted me that I was encountering somebody’s fishing line!

“Use the left side of your paddle to go right and the right side to go left,” my brother called from his kayak.

Quickly I plunged the left end of the paddle into the water and jerked momentarily away from the annoyed fisher people.  But my quick movement precariously tipped the kayak.  I sucked in a deep breath and tried to paddle with smooth and even strokes.  To my relief I moved safely out of the vicinity of fishing lines.

“Let’s go toward the middle where there aren’t many people,” Daniel suggested, as he paddled closer to me and held the side of my kayak.

Looking down through the murky water near the lake’s perimeter, I could still see jagged rocks lying on the lake bed, but I felt safe here.  Of course, it might disturb the fishermen, but why not drift around in the shallows where it would be good enough for me?  But Daniel was already leading the way further out toward the middle of the lake.  So, I leaned forward and put all my concentration into guiding my kayak in a straight line.

With a few more pointers from my brother, I finally found myself in the middle of the large alpine body of water.  Looking down, all I could see was darkness, and  I didn’t know how to swim!  I sucked in another deep breath and felt grateful for my life vest!

Quietly we paddled along, until my brother called out, “Try leaning back against the seat as you paddle.”

I realized I’d been leaning forward the whole time.  I grinned and settled against the seat, amazed at what a difference it made.  I could now paddle faster and easier.

As I grew more relaxed, I began to look around.  A rugged mountain range loomed against the horizon surrounding the area like a protective battlement.  Forests of pines climbed toward the peaks, but along the rocky ridge a line of fir trees made an impressive mohawk haircut-like outcropping.  High above me geese flew across the deep blue sky.  And nearby a trout jumped out of the water, leaving a mini-swirling eddy where he dived back in.

Deeply breathing the mingling aromas of marsh and woods, I smiled.  “This is great!” I said.

“Glad you tried it now?” Daniel chuckled.

“Absolutely!” I replied.

Finally we decided to head back toward the shore.  I paddled confidently beside my brother reveling in the gorgeous day, the thrill of a new adventure, and the joy of companionship.  When we reached the lake’s edge, Daniel grounded his kayak first and then pulled mine onto the shore.  Reluctantly I got out and looked back at the lake.  “We have to do this again!” I affirmed.  “Once wasn’t enough!”

Later as dusk settled over the land, we set up canvas chairs at a campsite overlooking the lake.  Evening shadows turned the surface a metallic gray; yet, the little ripples were capped with a reflected glow from the setting sun.  I settled into my chair and warmed my hands over our crackling fire.  Inside I sensed a pleasant feeling of satisfaction.  Today I had conquered my fear of the unknown, learned something new, and embraced the joy of it all!

Suddenly I realized that the Lord had a deeper lesson for me to learn.  What about when God calls me to try a new area of ministry, to go deeper in my spiritual journey, or to plunge into an unknown future?  My natural response is to stand on the shoreline and say, “God, I don’t know about this!  What if I tip over?  What if I can’t steer?  What if . . . ?”

But when I listen to His kind voice, I will always hear Him cheering me on, giving me courage that quiets fear.  He seems to say throughout His Word, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5, KJV)).  “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20, KJV).  “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go:  I will guide thee with mine eye” (Psalm 32:8, KJV).  “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest” (Joshua 1:9, KJV).

So, I climb into His will for me and let Him send me out to float on His spirit of love and protective providence.  But I can’t be content to stay in the shallows saying, “Okay, God, this is as far as I want to go.  Isn’t this good enough?  I feel safe here.”

Instead, I need to let go of the fear that is cast out by His love and follow Him into the very depths of His will for my life.  And as I follow, He will teach me step by step (or paddle by paddle).  He will instruct me how to steer and which direction to go.  And as I follow His lead and relax in His care,  I will be able to see the blessings around me, revel in His perfect companionship, and experience a gliding joy that only the buoyancy of His plan of salvation can inspire.

Yet, unlike my kayak experience, things will not always go quite so smoothly.  I will experience storms with lashing wind and wild waters.  I just might tip over.  Yet, with the life-preserver of God’s Word and the power of His presence I will make it to the shoreline—safe in the company of my God.

From our campsite I could see the moonlight casting a silver pathway across the lake.  And far above, Venus shone brightly in the dark sky.  I leaned back in my chair and gazed out across the stunning waters of Haviland Lake.  “Dear Lord,” I prayed silently, “thank You for weaving a lesson into this unique day—a lesson I never want to forget.  Don’t give in to fear; try new things; go where God calls; and enjoy the ride!  Amen.”

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Susannah Dorfsmith writes from Durango, Colorado, where she pursues the blessings found in God’s creation in order to share them and inspire others to do the same.