It was a marriage retreat put on by Operation Heal our Patriots. It was a retreat of epic proportions. You can find out more here http://www.samaritanspurse.org
I wasn't sure how and if kayaking related to my marriage, or to God, but I quickly learned, it fully relates to both.
So back to the instruction. I was "bracing for impact" before we even got in the water. We were given a tandem kayak, and I thought about how I was going to NOT get angry when my husband caused us to dump over. Why I assumed HE would be the reason is beyond me.
Once we got into the kayak with the help of guides and pushed our kayak away from shore, we started paddling away. I felt very uncomfortable. Physically, I felt like my legs were too close to my chin, but also, I was steadying the kayak with my core. Every little wiggle I felt from the back (where husband was) I braced harder. Determined to keep us upright. I started to get a cramp in my core, and my shins were rubbing against the kayak in the most uncomfortable way. My husband was behind me, giggling away, and I thought any moment now, and he will tip us for not paying attention. I kept trying to give him advice, "Honey, sit up and forward so you can balance with your hips" "Honey, your paddle is to go like mine!" "Honey! Don't lean over and look in the water!" The cramp was starting to irritate me. All the other couples seemed to be enjoying themselves, even though we were all barking orders.
One of the guides glided up to us, with ease, she said, "Relax" and paddled away. I realized, if we were going in, me bracing like this wouldn't stop it, and so what if we do go in!
Once I relaxed (my body and my mind), the kayaking went much smoother! The cramp went away, and I had as Oprah calls it, an "aha!" moment.
"What if I've been bracing for impact our whole marriage, because I'm afraid he is going to tip us!? What have I missed? What struggle has that caused?"
That is indeed what I have been doing. Bracing for impact. Living like his injuries were going to tip us into the cold, uninviting waters that is life. Living like he was incapable of navigating this water with me. Living life where I am constantly tensed and counteracting every imbalance.
Here's what I learned that morning. It's NOT my job! I don't have to brace (alone) and it certainly wouldn't be my husband or his injuries tipping us!
I learned that if I let go, and do my best, he will by virtue of my calm and serene (in this case kayaking) actions, he will be much calmer too. Most of all, I don't have to keep this ship afloat alone. Nope. I can rest my burdens with (insert your higher power here) God.
Yep. I said it. God. Don't freak out those who know me well.....its true. I feel good for saying it! It isn't that I was hiding my new found relationship with Jesus, but I certainly wasn't "Go Tell it on the Mountain" about it either.
Realizing that God has our "6" and we can let go of much of the baggage we've been trying to carry ourselves has helped in ways I can't even begin to describe. But I wanted to let you know, this is how I have learned to stop bracing for impact. To just relax and do what I can, paddle!
So that's it. God and kayaks and mountains and realizations. Keep on paddlin'!
~Written by Kateri Peterson, wife of OIF Veteran, Army 2002-2006