shoot the hooch
Shoot the Hooch – if you’re from Atlanta you’re familiar with this. The Chattahoochee River, in all of its brown, muddy glory, hosts groups of fun-loving, floating friends in the summer. For a small fee, you can load up an inner tube, grab your beverage of choice, and float down the river. It’s a great way to beat the Georgia heat, and serves as a rite of passage for anyone new to town. You’re not a true Atlanta resident until you shoot the Hooch!
About a year into living in Atlanta, I got invited to shoot the Hooch with a group of friends on the 4th of July. This was AWESOME, because A. it meant I had friends (like more than one), and B. I had something fun to do on the 4th. The weatherman called for summer heat and sunshine, with a slight possibility of a thunderstorm in the afternoon. We were willing to take our chances.
The group of friends totaled about 10-15 people that day. Once we arrived at our unloading area, we walked down a muddy pathway leading into the Chattahoochee. One by one we plopped into the river, laughing as we watched each person bob up and down to try to gain balance on their tube. It was perfect. Sunshine, friends, America and floating. What could go wrong?
Let me tell you.
About an hour or so into our floating adventure, we started to notice a thick, dark blanket of clouds slowly making its way over our heads. When I say dark, I mean black. Dark was a nice way of putting it. The mood of the majority of the group went from jolly and carefree, to a mild state of panic. In a matter of minutes, the sky split open and dropped. When I say it dropped, I mean it was pouring the kind of rain that hurts your skin. Big ole’ fat rain. It was as if God was sitting above the clouds, slowly tilting down a God-sized bucket of water on top of our heads. He also threw in thunder and lightning (for giggles I’m assuming).
Now, when I said the majority of the group started to mildly panic, this did not include me. For some reason, I oddly felt calm and cool. My attitude was, this storm is here, and I can’t stop it. I’m going to relax in my raft and calmly think about the best way to get through this.
In that moment, I felt God say, Mandy, this is what trust looks like.
Let me explain.
Some friends wanted control of the situation. Some friends wanted to get out of the storm immediately. Some friends jumped out of their tubes to start pulling everyone. Some friends had brain farts. For example, a few friends suggested we pull off to the side of the river to sit under tall trees during the lightning storm. Trees and lightning. Trees and lightning. I may not remember much from elementary school, but I do remember Bill Nye telling me to stay away from trees when there is lightning!
You see, when we panic in the middle of our storms, we can quickly lose sight of common sense and wisdom. More importantly, we can quickly forget about God. I know, without a doubt, the people who suggested sitting under the tall trees were and are brilliant people, but in one split second they lost their marbles out of fear. It clouds our thinking, and takes advantage of the best of us.
I’m discovering more and more that fear will always try to take shots at us; spiritually, mentally, emotionally and more. Our strongest weapon of defense is our trust. When we breathe, and let God lead our thoughts and decisions in the midst of our chaos, he immerses us with his calm reassurance, not more panic. He fills us with more of him. His power within us crushes fear! When we trust him to lead, he will.
After our group ruled out sitting under trees as an escape tactic, we decided the best course of action was to keep paddling to the end of our route. We weren’t certain of the exact location of the off ramp because of the blinding, painful rain, but we kept moving in that direction.
When life sends you a dark, scary storm, keep moving!
Our group didn’t know when relief was going to come, but we knew we had to keep moving to find it. We don't have to allow fear to paralyze us when we have a God who paralyzes fear. No matter what kind of storm you may be in or will be in, trust and know there is a shore. In my own life storms, paddling to shore (or seeking relief) usually involves moving closer to the Lord.
I encourage you to navigate your storms knowing you can live like God loves you, because he does. He’s waiting for you on the shore. Keep trusting, and keep moving toward him.