One of the favourite pastimes amongst a good number of our fellow campers here at Le Porte de Limeuil campsite – situated on the banks of the River Dordogne at Limeuil – is ‘tubing’ down the river from just above the bridge into the town right down to the farthest point of the beach that runs alongside the campsite. Everyone seems to have these blow up inflatable tyres or ‘tubes’ that sane adults and children use to splash around with in the shallows, but which the insane campers use to launch themselves into the strong current that starts at the two bridges into Limeuil where the River Vézère joins the River Dordogne. Whilst the rest of us splash around happily in the shallows, these ‘mad people’ come hurtling past us yelling and shouting with the excitement of ‘going with the flow’!?
Julia has had several goes at ‘tubing’ during our stay here, as have most of our neighbours … and for two weeks now they have been constantly on at me to ‘join in the fun’?! Until yesterday I managed to ‘fob them off’ with various excuses – not least that we didn’t happen to possess any of these inflatable tyres or ‘tubes’. Julia had borrowed one from various of our neighbours, but me being of the ‘shy, retiring type’ did not want to impose myself upon our neighbours in this way. Unfortunately, we were bequeathed a couple of ‘tubes’ by two of our neighbours who were leaving the site a few days ago, so I was finally left without any more excuses.
So yesterday I finally agreed to join Julia in ‘tubing’ down the River Dordogne. As a result I inadvertently ended up providing Julia with the funniest 20 minutes of her life!? Complete with swimming trunks, beach shoes, and inflatable tyre I allowed Julia to lead me along the banks of the River Dordogne to a point a hundred yards above the bridge over the river into Limeuil. I put the inflatable tyre over my head … and immediately it gets stuck round my chest and I can’t get it on properly round my waist or off again. I look ridiculous … Julia is laughing, everybody on the beach is laughing … Julia has to help me get the wretched thing off again?! I decide to sit in it instead … and it immediately capsizes and throws me into the river! Julia is laughing, everybody on the beach is laughing … and I am spluttering because I have managed to swallow half the river in the process!? I eventually manage to straddle the inflatable tyre and somehow scramble out into the flow of the river. The current takes me and I am swept along … floundering to keep my balance whilst straddling the tyre … totally out of control. A group of twenty-something young French men have waded out to the edge of the current – in order to impress their girl friends. They are all laughing at me as I pursue my mad career down the River Dordogne. They stop laughing when the current suddenly sweeps me and my large inflatable tyre towards them. ‘Stop!’ they shout … as if I have any hope of stopping … and I crash into them sending them flying in all directions like a bowling ball hitting skittles! I don’t even have the time … or the breath … to apologise before I am swept on by the flow towards the bridge into Limeuil.
‘Head for the centre arch!’ Julia shouts to me, as she serenely glides by sitting elegantly on her inflatable tyre. I vainly try to steer this wretched tyre towards the centre arch … and go crashing into the support pier … before bouncing off again and back out into the main flow. I am all over the place. Sometimes I am in the tyre, sometimes I am on the tyre, but most of the time I seem to be under the tyre, legs akimbo spluttering for air. I manage a quick glance towards the shore line … it seems miles away, and I seem to be travelling so fast. Julia has sailed serenely on, enjoying every moment of the journey, and is way ahead of me. Suddenly I realise we are nearly level with where our tent is pitched and where we need to stop. Julia has pulled in to the shallows and is standing there watching me, still laughing. She calls me in … and I go merrily sailing past, legs akimbo once again, with absolutely no hope of either controlling my tyre or stopping for that matter! At my present speed, and with the current just as strong, I will end up in Bergerac?! Julia throws her tyre on to the shore and swims out and rescues me … still roaring with laughter. I stagger to the shore and collapse on the beach, completely exhausted by what has been the most frightening 20 minutes of my life. Privately I am actually exhilarated at having managed to ‘tube’ down the river at long last … however inelegantly I managed to do so!
On one occasion Jesus spoke about ‘rivers’ and our need to be ‘going with the flow’. The Apostle John tells us that one time, when Jesus and his disciples were attending the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, Jesus told the crowd that ‘whoever believes in me … rivers of living water will flow from within them’ (John 7:38). The occasion was the final day of the festival – the day when the priests collected water from the pool of Siloam and then poured it all out on the altar in the Temple recalling God’s provision of water in the wilderness. Jesus was reminding his hearers of the fact that he was the unique provider of divine life – the source of ‘living water’. John tells us later in the same passage that Jesus was speaking here of the gift of the Holy Spirit that believers in Jesus would receive following the Day of Pentecost (John 7:39). Clearly the implication of Jesus’ words here is that we need to get into the flow of God’s spiritual river and ‘go with the flow’ of God’s Spirit, so to speak. There are all sorts of ‘currents’ at work in our world today – not all of them either appropriate or healthy by any means – but God is at work in the world by his Spirit and we definitely need to ‘go with the flow’ of God’s Spirit!
To be ‘led by the Spirit’ (Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:18) – or to ‘go with the Spirit’s flow’ as we may put it – may not always be ‘safe’. We may find ourselves swept along ‘out of control’ at times. We may ‘scatter a few people’ along the way. We may ‘bump into a few obstacles’ from time to time. We may find ourselves having to rely on others – especially on God – more than we have previously been used to. But it will certainly be more exhilarating, more exciting, more dangerous, more productive … than just splashing around in the shallows?!
As I am lying on the beach recovering a new family come over to us – father, mother and a boy and a girl around 10 or 11 I would guess. ‘Wow!’ says the boy, ‘That looks great fun!’ ‘Its called ‘tubing’ I tell them, and explain all about going up past the bridge, getting into the current, going with the flow, etc. etc. ‘Can we buy some inflatable tyres and have a go?’ the children ask their father. He seems somewhat hesitant … I guess that it is because these inflatable tyres aren’t cheap. ‘Here’ I say, ‘have ours … we won’t be needing them anymore.’ ‘Are you really sure?’ the father asks me. ‘Quite sure!’ I reply.
The next day we are praying with the family on the pitch next to ours. David, Briony, and their four children, are a lovely Christian family who have been on the campsite for a few days now. We have got to know them all well … but they are going home today. When they have packed up, we go to say goodbye to them and we all stand in a circle together and pray for one another. Briony prays that we will soon return to the ministry. She prays passionately ‘That when we return to the UK we will find ourselves swept along in the flow of God’s Spirit … just like being caught up in the flow of the river that runs by our campsite …into the exciting things God has for us!’ She prays well … but I sense Julia rocking with silent laughter as Briony prays! Is it an upsurge of joy inspired by the passion of Briony’s prayer … or a surge of hilarity inspired by the sudden thought of me ‘tubing’ down the Dordogne ‘going with the flow’?!