Life can be tiring. Young children leave us sleep-deprived, the competition between dishes and laundry to see who can pile up faster make us sigh and rub our shoulders. Playing hide-and-seek or tag with giggling kiddos, while the best part of everyone in the house’s day, can still leave us catching our breath. The exhaustion that comes with the battle to raise kids who love Jesus best matches the level of tired that I felt this past summer when my husband and I went white water rafting in Colorado.

Since I’m a person who doesn’t especially love being in large bodies of water, I was mildly terrified at the prospect. Even so, I resolved to take on this adventure with my husband, so I boarded a converted school bus, battled car sickness as we wound our way through mountainous roads, and put on my best attempt at a happy face as I donned a stylish blue safety helmet paired with a sour-smelling life vest.

Just before we climbed aboard the rafts, the guides went over the rules and commands that come with maneuvering a bloated piece of plastic through a jagged and unruly course of rapids. Needless to say, I hung onto every word they said, but one rule stood out to me the most.

When the rapids get the roughest, there are times that no amount of paddling in any direction can keep the rafters from falling into the water. That’s when the guide yells with great conviction, “Lean! Lean! Lean!” At that point, all of the passengers in the raft pull their paddles out of the water and lean their heads in together to the middle of the raft while the guide takes complete control.

The act of leaning in has become a challenge I’ve found myself applying to every aspect of my life. I’ve discovered that my normal tendency when facing rough patches hasn’t always been to follow this advice. Instead, I tend to prefer “give in.” While “lean in” and “give in” might not seem to be much different, the two are actually quite opposite from each other.

Give in says,

I don’t want to fight. I’ll give in to the opponent’s demands.

Meanwhile, lean in says,

This contention is uncomfortable, but I’m going to lean in to the discomfort and fight for the right thing.

Give in says,

This is hard. I give up.

Lean in responds,

This is hard, but it’s not going to kill me. I might not do everything well, but I’m going to lean in to the awkward parts of finishing.

Give in says,

The reasons for pressing on aren’t worth the cost.

Lean in replies,

Open your eyes to the greater reason. The painful requirements of applying discipline to your children and yourself are only small prices to pay for the invaluable reward of knowing you’ve done the right thing.

Without a doubt, life will see to it that we will find ourselves immersed in challenges, and no amount of paddling against the waves or sitting still, hoping it will stop, is going to save us. Refusing to lean in and finish the mocking and challenging rapids that threaten to throw us out of the boat is pointless.

The only fighting chance we have is to look around, acknowledge that things are what they are, lean in with everything we have, and trust that God will guide us through.

If you find yourself tired as you have begun to take on a new year with new goals, new uncertainties, and new seasons, my prayer is that you will join me in praying for strength to lean in and ride out the waves.

God has given us the hope of a destination that is worth the journey.