Rapid Rescue

In July, my family visited the Nantahala Outdoor Center, home of the 2013 Kayak World Championships. After we enjoyed a trout-cake sandwich at River’s End Restaurant, we ventured upstream to watch kayakers navigate a Class III rapid. We found a good vantage point, so we plopped down on smooth river boulders. As sunlight pierced through the lush canopy and illuminated the air-infused rapids, the smell of Earth intoxicated me. “This is living!” I thought.

Through the mist, we spotted two rafters wedged against a boulder 40 yards upstream. I said to my wife, “Oh, they’ll figure out how to free themselves.” Twenty minutes passed. Their raft remained motionless. That’s when we hiked upstream to see if we could help. Whitewater gushed against the half-deflated raft. The middle-aged woman was gripping her ankle. She must’ve fractured it when she slammed into the two-ton rock.

As we stood on solid ground, my heart ached. I longed to rescue them, but the raging rapids were hip-high. A cloud of witnesses gathered. Many kayakers and rafters drifted by them, but none helped. To make matters worse, a few miles upstream, Duke Energy opened the dam and millions of gallons of turbulent water were on the way. If the raft dislodged, the class III rapid would be agonizing for her. I saw the concerned look on my daughters’ faces. “Who’s going to rescue them, daddy?” Just then, a long-haired kayaker hurried to the river’s edge. I uttered, “There’s no way this dude’s going to save them. He only weighs a buck-ten, soakin’ wet.” Like the river’s mist, my pessimism vaporized when he retrieved a red, rescue throw-bag from his backpack.

The roar of rushing waters echoed through the gorge. Like parenthesis, the lightweight kayaker cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted: “Tie this to your raft!” He intended to tie the other end to an oak to let the river swing them into the bank. But much to my surprise, they refused! What were they thinking?! Were they waiting for a helicopter? Help arrived, and they declined. As the good Samaritan reeled in his rope and shuffled back to his kayak, this reflection washed over me—this was my story…


Two decades prior, I crashed into a boulder of brokenness and was drowning in a river of despair. It was in that season when Christ came to me. Yet, I refused. In my stone-cold heart, I told Him, “No, Jesus. Your ‘lifejacket’ is too burdensome for me.”

Why would I neglect so great a salvation? I tell you why–the prospect of what I’d lose petrified me: friends, opportunities, fun. Little did I realize that, six months later, when I placed my faith in Christ, I’d be trading bologna for filet mignon.

It’s been twenty-five years since the day God pulled me out of “the muck and the mire.” Now, I’m confident that nothing is more fun than swimming in the ocean of God’s grace, bathing in the fact that I’m forgiven, accepted, and loved. Moreover, I gained new friends, indeed, brothers and sisters in Christ. And as for opportunities, what’s better than knowing I get to spend eternity with the One Who gave His life to rescue me?


Countless rafters avoided the wounded woman that day, just like the priest and Levite passed by the beaten man in Luke 10:25-37. But there’s One who truly cares. He’s the compassionate One Who loves His neighbor well, the good Samaritan—Jesus Christ. Unlike the thin kayaker who walked away, the Son of God got in the turbulent “water”; He became a human. Then, He did the unthinkable—He traded places with us! He crashed against our boulder of brokenness (the cross) and bore the rushing “waters” of God’s wrath (Isaiah 53), all because He loved us, and wanted us to live.  

Don’t cling to a “raft” or wait for a “helicopter.” They cannot save you. Only Christ can (John 14:6). Trust His nail-pierced hands.

Written by Logan Stogner, 2022 copyright

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