Sisters in Scripture
The Outrigger in Your Canoe    07/14/2021
"Don't stand up in the canoe!" It's on the list of famous last words. And it is usually followed by folks getting wet--both the speaker and the stander. While light and nimble in the hands of seasoned paddlers, canoes are notoriously unstable for the uninitiated. At best, canoes are confined to relatively calm, small bodies of water. And they operate well with just one or two aboard.

Contrast that with the outrigger of the South Pacific. In the outrigger, Polynesians were able to traverse thousands of miles across open Pacific Ocean, the world's largest body of water. The basic design has but one alteration to the canoe, the addition of an outlying, attached hull that gives the craft its name. That addition keeps the boat from tipping to the opposite side because of its weight and prevents tipping in the other direction by its buoyancy. The added stability allows the now-transformed "canoe" to respond to the strokes of muscled paddlers, mount towering waves, and travel vast distances. It allowed a whole civilization to people far-flung islands.

Thankfully, I've spent some hours this summer both at water's edge and on the water. These days, I mostly paddle a kayak or board, but in the past, I've ventured out in canoes and learned the lesson of "don't stand up!" I have also had the thrill of being the passenger in an outrigger that sped toward the beach on surging waves off Oahu. Wary, tippy canoe / intrepid, powerful outrigger. I've done them both. That experience has given me an image that I turn to frequently for another kind of navigation, the unpredictable waters of relationships.

How do we accompany someone through the capricious course of life's twists and turns? As a friend, a confidant, or the parent of an adult child, what is our role when we see their craft faltering? We want so much to be helpful, to bring about good for them. But we also know that this natural inclination can backfire in a variety of ways. What are the do's and don'ts that are actually beneficial? 

Recall the difference between a canoe and the outrigger. If you climb inside somebody else's canoe, there's a very good chance you will both get wet, and you probably will not help them go very far. But if you can be the outrigger to their canoe, providing them with some stability, they are enabled to mount and move through the very waves that threaten to swamp them. 

To be the outrigger to somebody's canoe, means to hang on tight for the ride, to be alongside, to go through what they go through, to be steadfast and dependable, to be there. But it also means that you are not in their canoe, in their life, in their "stuff," doing things "for" them. It is their life. Each of us is the captain of our own canoe. We may not even always like where their journey takes us. But when we get there, it will have been their journey, not ours, and that's what we signed on for. We will have journeys of our own to make. 

When we make those journeys, let us hope that we, too, will have trusted friends and mentors willing to serve as outriggers for us. Most of us can look back and identify those who have done exactly that for us. Who has been the outrigger to your canoe? 

My guess is that it was someone who did not question you or give directions, but someone whose confidence in your ability actually contributed to that ability. They may, in fact, have had question or concerns, probably unspoken. There may even have been times when those uncertainties were shared as part of the "hanging on." And if you were wise, you took what was said to heart, for you had come to trust their reliability and they saw, at wave-level, what you could not see. 

So, yes, it's about relationship. And relationships are "complicated." But so worth it. To have a share in the happiness of another, to enjoy the easy company of mutual respect, to be loved by another who will half your sorrows and double your joys, to make memories that last a lifetime--these are the dividends of investing in others. They are worthy of the cost involved. 

For the fun of it, this outrigger clip will take you for a short ride.  cool
Sisters in Scripture is all about the transformative power of relationships, particularly among women (thus the subtitle of my first bible study, "Exploring the Relationships of Biblical Women"). In this month's newsletter, we focus on retrieving the voice, the role, and the wisdom of women. Most of us are gifted with lots of contemporary examples, but it is worth looking deeper into the past. These gifts from women have not always been honored or remembered. I've added some resources to this month's newsletter that I recommend to you and I'd love to hear if any of these strike a responsive chord in you...
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