"Well mate, don't worry about it; just enjoy the ride. The end is a long way off yet." "I've heard that the river ends in a mighty waterfall; so deep that it appears to have no bottom," chirped in another. "Yeah, who told you that one?" retorted the first. "No-one has ever paddled back to tell us what really happens. That's just a scare tactic that some weirdo concocted to upset your trip! Just relax and enjoy the ride, the end is a long way off from here."
Thus the conversation fizzled out as each one withdrew into his own bubble of thought. I was left to ponder the final outcome. A giant ocean? I could picture us all, so cramped within the confines of the river, then to break forth onto that limitless sea. Bumper-to-bumper lilos finally bursting out, set adrift, each one scattered over that eternal pond. Somehow I found little comfort in this thought of unending nothingness - bobbing about on my little lilo, detached, alone.
A bottomless waterfall? This thought scared me I must admit. It was hard to imagine such a pleasant trip ending in such obvious terror and certain destruction.
Certainly the undertow kept the lilos moving at a fair pace. I began to feel somewhat uneasy. I wondered if I would be able to paddle to shore (just in case the need arose). I realized I would have to maneuver my way around a lot of lilos. I noticed that the scenery on the bank was moving by faster than I had first thought. I lifted my head and had a look around.
The river up ahead was head-to-toe lilos as far as my eye could see. There was no sign of ocean nor sound of waterfall. I looked behind. No-one else seemed anxious about the trip. I determined to lie back and forget it for now. Why, hadn't my friend assured me that the end was a long way off from here! I settled back to relax, but a sense of uneasiness remained. I much preferred the idea of limitless sea so I set my mind adrift in preparation for that end.
Chapter 2. The Realization.
As I was thus dreaming I perceived the sound of a voice. Distant, yet near; like when someone calls from a far bank to someone in a boat on a lake (sound travels better over water you know). And this voice was calling. The sound was indistinct - sort of muffled by all the other noises round about. My queasiness was still there.
"Just dreaming," I thought.
I opened my eyes and beheld the sky; a lovely blue - so deep you could get lost in it as you stared upward to heaven. As I let my head wander to the side I could see the greenness of the overhanging branches passing by. The day was bright.
"No cause for alarm," I reassured myself. Yet, the trees did seem to be moving by a lot faster now. My tummy seemed anxious as it slowly turned over. "Have you noticed that we are moving faster now?" I asked my companion.
"No, that's just an illusion. That happens to some people when they've been on the water a while. Lie back, relax, and enjoy the ride. If you close your eyes you won't even notice any difference. That's what I'm doing. It's great! Really relaxing.., not a care in the world."
He drifted off into his bubble again. I really wanted to heed his advice, but his words of reassurance did little for my tummy.
Then I heard that voice again - near, yet far. I rose up on one elbow to have a look around. The river was packed as ever - lilos everywhere. Then, through the barrage of rubber rafts and massed bodies, I noticed a figure standing on the bank. He had his hands cupped to his mouth and seemed to be calling. I couldn't make out what he was saying so I just smiled and gave a little wave in reply.
He called again and pointed downstream. He seemed somewhat perturbed. I looked ahead. Line upon line of lilos spread out before me, bobbing along just like always. I looked back to the bank but the figure was gone. We must have passed him by. I again looked to the front.
"Yes, that's it," I exclaimed.
The lilos up ahead were bobbing - bobbing up and down like little waves. I could feel it now under my own lilo ... troughs and hills, up and down ... small, yet distinct, like oversize corrugations. My hand touched the water, a small wake trailed behind it.
"We are moving faster," I told my companion.
"Sure, sure. It's all part of the ride," he mumbled in reply. "I'm worried!" I blurted out in a matter-of-fact sort of way. "Listen," he sighed, "There's no cause for alarm. Look ahead. Can you see the red flag?"
I looked. I looked hard. Yes, sure enough, way up ahead there was a small red flag. It was like one of those flags you see on the back of a child's bike - a small red triangle on a long flexi rod. I could even make out the faint flutter of some rainbow streamers.
"What is it?" I asked.
"That's our group leader. The flag is attached to his lilo. He's in charge of this ride. It's his job to warn us of any problems ahead. He also has helpers on lilos near the shore. That's why there's nothing to worry about. We're being looked after. Just relax and enjoy the ride. All's well ..." He faded out once more.
I wished I could be as nonchalant as he, but I was worried. Water was now beginning to splash up along the edges of my lilo, making dark blotches as it saturated the lining. I looked about. Although there were a few heads popping up here and there, most were oblivious to the cause of my distress.
Again I looked to the bank. I felt I wanted to edge my way over. I set my left hand in the water as a rudder and paddled with my right. I tried to turn the nose of my craft towards the shore…
"Hey, what are you doing?" my companion demanded as my lilo bumped into his. "I'm sorry," I replied. "I just wanted to manoeuvre a bit closer to the shore." "Are you kidding!" he retorted. "Can you imagine the turmoil that would ensue if we all decided we wanted to swap lanes! Use your head mate, someone might get hurt. You have to think of others you know. You have to stay where you are. You can't get out. You're locked in. So why not enjoy the ride, eh?" Gruffly he pulled his terri-towelling hat over his eyes and nestled down yet again.
I felt trapped. I was on this roller coaster ride and I couldn't get off. I wished I had never started.
"How did I get here anyway?" I queried.
Shocked, I realized that I had never even asked to come; yet here I was. My uneasiness turned claustrophobic. My stomach churned unashamedly. Nerves sent shivers up my spine. My pores began a cold sweat.
Locked in! Can't move! No way out! I screamed inside: "Dear God help me!" I felt helpless.
Chapter 3. The Way Opened.
On the shore I spotted another figure. He had a coil of rope in his hand. He called out but I couldn't hear his words. I shrugged my shoulders and held my hand to my ear to let him know I didn't understand. He called again and held up the rope.
I looked ahead. There was now a low lying cloud, or mist, hovering over the river just in front of us. A low, dull roaring could be heard.
"Maybe it's a storm?" I thought to myself. I didn't bother to inquire of my companion. I dared not disturb him anymore. I was sure he thought me a real party pooper, or worry-wart or some-thing; a real wet blanket.
"Hey, that's no cloud!" I spurted. "That's spray!"
I could tell it wasn't rain because it just sort of hung in the air. My lilo began to convulse more feverishly. I gripped the sides. The spray was getting heavier and the roar was getting louder. My preference for the boundless ocean was swept away as I awoke to the reality of the situation. Against all of my hopes, despite all of the assurances, I was forced to admit that it not only felt like, but also sounded very much like we were heading for one mighty big waterfall!
Fear turned to panic. I looked about. I suddenly felt very vulnerable on my little lilo. As I took a stronger hold I called to my companion. He didn't stir. I called again. The noise was growing even louder. I gave him one last yell but he just lay there totally oblivious. Non compis. Dead to the world. Lulled into a false sense of security - the growing waves had only served to deepen his sleep; the roar of the cascade a sounding comfort to his ear.
I looked ahead. The little red flag was still there bobbing along. A hand was raised in a reassuring sort of gesture. I looked towards the bank. Others on lilos near the shore had their hands raised as well and seemed to be nodding in a reassuring manner to all who were now looking about. The rest just smiled, had a yawn, rolled over and went back to sleep.
Again I spotted another figure on the bank. He too had a rope. Next to him stood another, also with a rope. Then another, and another. I noticed that different ones at different times were hurling their ropes out over the lilos, like fishermen casting their lines. Then they would pull them in. Mostly I saw they came in empty. The faces of these men would look sad and disappointed, but it didn't seem to deter their efforts.
Occasionally one man would catch something. Immediately his face would light up and he would call others to his aid. Then others who were standing by would rush over to help him with his catch. After a great struggle on their behalf they would pull their catch onto the shore. Then they would all raise a loud shout of triumph. To my amazement I realized they were pulling in people - people out of the river.
"How odd," I mused, "Fishers of men."
Chapter 4. The Struggle.
With a jolt I was thrust back into the reality of my present demise. Then, with a thud, a rope hit my lilo. Before I could decide what to do it had slipped back into the water. I made a belated grab at it but to no avail. Fully realizing the hopelessness of my situation I determined to grab the next rope that came my way.
Intently I looked about. My distress intensified. At intervals I could see ropes snaking through the air. Some fell nearby but none close enough to catch. In abject astonishment I noted the indifference that some travellers exhibited when a rope would come their way. Some were so asleep they didn't even stir. Some awoke with a start and swatted at it as if a pesty fly had landed on them, a mere annoyance. Others leapt more noticeably trying to avoid the rope as if it was a poisonous snake that intended them harm.
As for me, feeling so anxious, wanting so much for a rope to come my way, I could only watch these goings-on in a detached sense of despair. "I must try to save myself." I thought. With all the determination I could muster I rolled onto my stomach and began to paddle against the flow. At first it was a steady, rhythmic stroke - deep lunges of my arms, my head cocked up, my confidence rising as I pitted my strength against the pull of the river. I really felt I was making some headway. I glanced to the bank. To my horror I saw that in fact I was travelling at the same speed downstream as I had been before. At this I thrust in my arms deeper and began to stroke harder. My head lay flat against the deck and I doubled my tempo. "Stroke, stroke, stroke," I urged to myself.
"Faster! Faster! Faster!"
I pushed myself to my limit. I could feel my muscles beginning to burn. My breath was short and raspy, my lungs ached. I opened my eyes and checked the bank.
"Dear God, I'm going backwards!"
In despair I flopped down on my cushion. Exhausted, I left my arms to drag in the water. Not an inch had I gained. The undertow was much stronger than I had thought. Reality loomed large - I was unable to save myself. Helpless. Hopeless. Inwardly I groaned: "Please God, throw me a rope."
Chapter 5. The Struggle Continues.
With a whack it slapped across the back of my legs. I pounced on it. It was only a thin little rope, but it sure felt good in my hands. It seemed stout enough. I wrapped it around my clenched fist several times to make sure it wouldn't slip through. I waved my other hand to the holder of the line as a signal to reel me in. At this point all chaos broke loose. I had come to a sudden stop; but the river, and the rest of its floating debris, continued to flow on unabated. I had become an obstacle in the path of oncoming traffic. I yelled at those heading for me to watch out. I knew I wouldn't be able to dodge the array that was set against me for very long so I frantically motioned to my rescuer to hurry up.
With a thud and a splosh one lilo after another collided with my vessel. Some skidded off the sides, others hit me full broadside. Several times I was nearly knocked overboard but I tenaciously held on to my little raft; while, at the same time, clenching the rope. I wasn't making much progress towards the shore - just sitting there like a lame duck.
To add to my problems my craft kept swirling around in the water, as I had one hand holding the rope thus leaving me only one hand with which to steer. More often than not I had to use both hands to hold the rope as the pull of the undertow threatened to break my grip. On these occasions I could only hold on with my feet. The little balloon seemed to have a mind of its own. No sooner would I drag it back than it would skittle out, slide about, and shoot off again; like a dog being held while the rest of the pack chases after the rabbit. It took all of my strength to maintain this preposterous struggle. I soon tired. My arms felt as if they were going to tear away, my shoulders groaned and my legs began to cramp.
I remembered my former companion. No doubt he was still at rest, enjoying the ride, going with the flow. Yet here I was ceaselessly, mercilessly, pulled down by the river. And yet, connected, if ever so slenderly, to the shore. Maybe it would be easier to let go of the rope and end the struggle.
My body screamed "Yes!" but my mind recoiled as it pictured the river, and all its contents, plunging over the falls. No! I could not let go.
I had to hang on! This was my only hope.
I again glanced about. I noticed another traveller in similar straits to mine. Further down was another. I looked to the bank. My rescuer had my lifeline secured to a large Rock, and was calling others to his aid. Despite my struggle I felt somewhat comforted by this sight.
Then I saw a would-be rescuer running along the shore in a downstream direction. I noticed that instead of his rope being attached to the Rock, he had it tied around his own waist. Although he had a confident look on his face, he was unable to hold his catch against the pull of the stream. He therefore had to run with it, or lose his prize. As I watched I saw where the shore ended as it met the walls of the gorge up ahead. I watched in horror as this poor man ended up being pulled back into the swirling torrent - the tow being to strong for him to fight against on his own. Not only did he lose his catch, but he lost his own life as well.
I also watched another would-be rescuer who had cast in his line and made a catch. He, too, had omitted to ensure that his line was securely fastened to the Rock. As the power of the undertow put pressure on the line, realizing he was unable to hold it on his own, he dropped the line on the sand and ran to get help. On his return he found the line had played out and his catch was lost. I could see he suffered an enormous sense of loss, though he himself was still safe.
On top of all this I saw that some of our guide's 'helpers', who occupied the lilos nearest the shore, were throwing in ropes of their own. Those who caught these counterfeits experienced an obvious sense of relief and cried out excitedly at the prospect of their soon salvation. Unfortunately, they had failed to check as to where the other end of their 'lifeline' was connected. I watched in horror as they continued on towards the falls as steadily as ever.
"The blind leading the blind," I concluded. These phoney rescuers holding the lines thought it was a great joke. With a jerk I was brought back as a lilo plummeted into my now very water logged craft. After all the batterings it had taken it had sprung a few leaks. I realised that as it deflated it would become a dead weight and only add to my now unbearable load. My bubble had burst. My dreams were sinking. As much as I regretted having to do it I knew that I would have to abandon ship. Despairingly I rolled off my lilo and let it go its way. "Now," I thought, "I'm really in trouble."
Chapter 6. Surrender.
Having expended all my energy I expected to go careering down the rapids. But, to my utter amazement, and total joy, I found myself heading for shore. Now, instead of being buffeted by the traffic, I was able to duckdive and let it flow overhead. All I had to do was hold onto my line, hold my breath, and let my rescuers pull me in.
Once as I came up for air, I spotted one of those phoney 'helpers' reach up and try to cut my line. What could I do? I tried to shout, but only managed to swallow a pint of the river as I was dragged under again. At any moment I expected to feel myself being swept away as my lifeline was severed. The suspense was unbearable. I prayed. Again I surfaced only to see my line clear and apparently untouched.
"It may be thin but it's obviously strong!" I gurgled.
This small but significant event built up my confidence enormously.
My rescuers were hard at it pulling for all they were worth. The Rock stood firm, immovable. I could sense I was now only metres from shallow water. I had time to fleetingly glance upstream.
Another rescue was in operation. The one being saved was closer to the bank than me. With only inches to go I heard him yell to his rescuers: "It's O.K. I can make it from here!" to whit he let go of the rope and began to swim. His rescuers implored him to take hold of the rope once more, but too late. He was soon heading downstream - still swimming, but with every stroke he was moving further away from the bank. I determined to hold on to the rope until I hit dry land. No heroics for me.
The final stretch seemed interminable. As I reached the final lane of lilos I met my greatest test. Here were lying the stooges of the group leader, floating in the back-eddies and appearing to be harmless. They seemed determined to keep me in the mainstream; and did their utmost to hinder me from gaining that final yard. I could hear my rescuers calling to me, "Beware of their promises! Beware of their subtle moves! Beware! Hold fast the line. We haven't failed you up to now. You are anchored to the Rock. The line is secure, it cannot be severed. Hold fast! Hold fast!"
The 'helpers' on their lilos poo-hooed those on shore. "Don't listen to them," they chimed. "All is well. All is well. Here mate, climb on board and we'll find you another lilo. It'll be bigger than the last, and a much classier model. You can have a prime position on the river now. We'll even find you a spot up close to our beloved leader."
"We're all having a great time up here. You're just soaking wet and mighty tired by the looks of you. Come on, buddy, hop up on board. You're making a big mistake listening to those strange characters. There's no danger. All is well. All is well."
Their offer sounded most enticing. I was more than tempted to grab hold of their lilo - even if just for a little rest. But to do that meant that I would have to let go of the rope. The decision was almost too hard to make. But then I heard my rescuers call once more:
"Press on! Press on! Just a little longer and you'll be safely on shore. Hold fast just a little longer!" As I was momentarily weighing up my options, one of those 'helpers' took hold of my line and gave it a couple of mighty tugs. Fortunately I hadn't yet released my grip on the line, so the jerks failed to shake me loose. With much cursing and swearing the 'helpers' hurled their abuse at me as I was towed under their last line of defence.
Within seconds I felt the hands of my rescuers under my arms pulling me ashore. With indescribable relief I slumped onto the ground.
I couldn't believe it; terra firma. Dry ground. High ground.
A cheer arose from those who had been active in pulling me ashore. I noticed that my arrival seemed to encourage those engaged in the rescue of others further down. After catching my breath, I arose shakily to thank my saviours.
"Don't thank us, friend. Like you we also were snatched from the clutches of the river. We only helped to pull you in. It was the line anchored to the Rock that really saved you."
"What can I do to show my appreciation?" I asked.
"Grab a line, friend," they chorused, "Grab a line!"
Chapter 7. Saved to Serve.
A new found strength possessed me as I hurled my rope out over the water. Considering the ordeal I had just been through I felt like a new man.
At first my throws were clumsy. More often than not my rope would land on someone who was asleep and just slip back into the water. I now experienced that sense of disappointment as I retrieved my line. One time, as I was thus dejected, some of those 'helpers' grabbed my line and tried to pull me from shore. At first I tried to resist, but seeing they were stronger than me, I let go of the rope. Suddenly the line went tight and the attackers were pulled off their perch and unceremoniously dunked in the drink. They abandoned their attack and floated away downstream.
I turned to see who was responsible for such a resounding victory. There was only the Rock, to which my line was still securely tied, and me. I knew it hadn't been because of me - so it must have been the Rock!
Immovable. Dependable. Secure.
The next time one of those guys tried to pull me back in I just released the rope and let him try to pull in the Rock. He was in for a shock! Seeing the impossibility of his task he just threw away the line in disgust and shook his fist at me as he continued on his way. Amazing how their attitude changed once you left the ride!
As I continued to cast my line I endeavoured to hit the rafts of those who were looking perplexed. It seemed that those who sensed their need were the ones who would take hold of the line. I cannot describe the sheer joy I experienced when I landed my first catch. Poor fellow was so tired and waterlogged. I felt such tender pity for him and such endearing affection.
"Had I looked this bedraggled when I hit the shore?" I pondered. I recalled how strong and vibrant my rescuers had appeared to me when I was first brought ashore. Was this how he now saw me? I had no time to pursue this thought; there was too much work to be done. Lilos were scooting by us faster than we could throw the lines.
"Grab a line, friend," I cried, "grab a line!"
Chapter 8. The End.
An instant later a runner ran by with a message, shouting: "Double your efforts! Double your efforts! The day is far spent. Night approaches. Total darkness is soon to fall." I looked westward and saw that the sun was indeed going down over the tops of the trees.
"Double your efforts! Double your efforts! Tie more lines to the Rock!" cried a second messenger.
Then came a third; "Work while it is light. When darkness comes no more work can be done."
My strength seemed to surge once more, and my aim was more accurate as I cast my line. I noticed all along the shore that there were still some souls being saved from that perilous journey even at this late hour.
As we thus continued our efforts, I strained to see through the fading twilight as to what was happening downstream. The last thing I saw before darkness fell was that little red flag disappearing over the edge of the abyss; the group leader's arm still raised in abject defiance. Like lemmings in plague the travellers followed him over the roaring precipice. The falls devoured them all. Darkness settled in, and the river was now totally devoid of life.
Our work was over. Teeming millions had plunged to their doom. The reality and horror swept over me like a flood as I contemplated the magnitude of the events. A heavy sense of mourning engulfed me like a dark cloud. I had worked hard, trying my best to save as many as I could, but my efforts seemed so insignificant as I thought of what could have been. If only ...
Just then I felt a reassuring arm around my shoulder. "Well done, my friend," a kindly voice did say, "You have done your best."
"Thank-you," I sighed, feeling a little comforted, "But what of the rest? That could have been me going over those falls except that someone threw me a line. Many people I knew have gone to that end. Such loss ... such loss!" I cried.
"Not one has been lost," the kindly voice did say as He wiped the tears from my eyes. "Not one has been lost. All who heeded My call; all who took notice of My warnings; all who saw the signs; all who were willing to abandon the ride and all who longed for the safety of the shore - not one of these has been lost."
"All who were anchored to the Rock; all who trusted their lives to the strength of the lifeline; all who were willing to abandon every cherished dream; all who wanted to be here that much are here. All who endured to the end have been saved. Not one has been lost."
"All those who have perished desired that end. They enjoyed the ride while it lasted. They chose to stay on. None need to have perished, there were enough lines for every craft. I didn't want any to be lost but they didn't want Me to save them. They trusted in their guide, though most never knew who he really was, they just accepted what someone else told them without ever finding out for themselves. None have been lost who wanted to be saved."
"Come, my friend, soon a new day dawns. You have worked hard, now you can rest with Me. I have prepared a room for you in My home. I have set a place for you at My table. Let us go and have supper together, and I will answer all your unanswered questions. We will get to know each other better."
I now felt much comforted by this kindly voice. A new Friend, A new beginning.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son; that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent His Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." John 3:16,17.
None of us actually asked to be on this ride...but here we all are. Most of us realize that having the 'latest model lilo' or having a 'better position on the river' doesn't really solve the problems that constantly trouble our minds. To millions of people, life seems both meaningless and absurd. Science, technology, even philosophy and theology, have pictured human beings as mere creatures of chance. Yet, consciously or not, men and women find it difficult to accept a purposeless existence. Violence, protests and rebellion, experimentation with drugs - these are, in many cases, the frustrated expressions of people struggling with their appalling lost-ness. So what is it inside of us, that makes us long for something better?
What is the future of the world? Will it end with a child struggling for a last breath in our polluted atmosphere, or with the blast of atomic hell unleashed from a nuclear warhead? Or will humans - who in recorded history have never demonstrated the ability to control even their own basic selfishness - suddenly succeed in banishing evil, war, poverty, and even death?
A very wise man once said: "Where there is no vision, the people perish." I will venture to say that what we all need and desire is that vision; a realization of the real reason for existence, or in other words - the truth. If we know the truth about what our destination is to be, then we will know in what direction to head. This is clear enough, but does anybody know the truth, and if so, where do we find it?
Reader, we have put this booklet together in the hope of sharing the answers that we have found. There are many people on this planet claiming to have the truth; but it is obvious that there can be only one. Indeed there must be one. For real answers, to your very real questions, please search the Holy Bible, prayerfully seeking the Truth, "Seek and you shall find..."
No reader, who turns the pages of this book, will put it down without wondering whether it was more than chance that led him to discover it. "..., and The truth shall make you free." John 8:32 (KJV).