“Party of one. Van Ve…zelle.”
“Here.” I raised my hand and walked over to the big orange bus with my yellow helmet and life vest clicked into place.
Colorado. The Arkansas river. The Royal Gorge rafting trip. And me. Party of one. Brilliant.
I knew this was my trip. This was my trip with God. As we bumped along the dusty road, I smiled as I thought of the guy standing in front of me a few minutes earlier in line for gear – a tattoo of a flying eagle stretched across his back. And earlier that day, the eagle sticker on the truck in front of me on the highway.
God has gotten my attention with eagles many times over the past two years. This is a bird that looks an incoming storm in the eye, and instead of running and hiding with the other animals, launches itself into the center of the storm, and is propelled to soar above it.
Not whining about the storm. Not complaining about it. And not just bearing it and waiting it out.
LAUNCHING into it.
There is intentionality in that. There is intensity in that. There is fearlessness in that. It’s not logical. But. . .
It’s the kingdom.
The upside down, inside-out kingdom.
And so I have launched into this crisis. I am pursuing my dreams with God. This was a small one, but an important one nonetheless – doing something fun on my otherwise packed U.S. holiday. Rafting. By myself. It’s funny because in this season, I find I’m not scared of doing things on my own anymore. In fact, I often look forward to them.
“Party of one. Van Vezelle; You’re with Schwartz, party of 4.”
I walked over to meet the Schwartzes. Mom, dad, brother, and sister, in Colorado on vacation from California. The Bay Area? Oh, that’s where I went to high school. “Oh, you both went to Monte Vista high school as well?” How am I not surprised? Some days, everything feels like a God set-up.
And so I became kid #3 in the Schwartz family. And we soared down the Arkansas river together as a team, hilariously cracking each other up and trying to paddle in sync as our guide (who we nicknamed “Scrappy”) yelled commands over the roar of the Class 3 and 4 rapids.
We screamed together as we stopped to jump off some high rocks. Shivered together as the fast breeze whipped through the canyon. Exhaled in relief together as the sun quickly warmed us up after the splashes of each rapid.
According to Scrappy, this was the first clear afternoon they had had in a while, and not too hot. I drank in the beauty, eagerly awaiting the “Soaring Eagle” zipline ride to follow the rafting trip.
But the zipline ride was closed when I got there. Closed. You’re kidding me. It was 6pm, and it closed at 5:30. Since it’s a new trip combo, even the rafting people didn’t realize that. Here I was from China. The Soaring Eagle was closed.
Frustration came quickly. I was mad, irritated, thrown off. I drove back down the mountain feeling pain bubbling up. Why was I so mad? Deeper pain than realized. Fear that I was somehow living in a state of denial about my circumstances, that God is in fact not real, fear that I was alone.
God, why? I thought You were in this. You showed that zipline to me online. What the heck? I drove in silence and felt pain creeping up. Fear. I’m alone. Tears falling onto the steering wheel of my rental car.
Then a thought came, crystal clear. “You’ll be back to Colorado. Back to ride the Soaring Eagle zipline.”
I sat with it a moment. And then I knew it was from Him. All of sudden, I felt myself relaxing. That peace I’ve come to know. The Soaring Eagle was from Him. Just not for now.
I noticed the sunset starting on my left. It looked like a huge wing, half of an eagle, arching across the sky. It was what I felt. One wing intact, and one wing missing in my life. But… it was also like the wing of God, a place of refuge for me.
Then the road turned, and the wing was now in front of me. Actually, here I was, driving directly underneath it! My body relaxed even more. God, you knew exactly what I was thinking. I’m safe here with you, God. Under your wing.
What an incredible day. Hearing God’s voice. Launching forward and now resting in that quiet place above the storm.
Out of the corner of my eye, I spied a license plate that said: “1FLUOVR”. Yes, You did.