Paddling the Wrong Way

A few years ago I accompanied some of the young people from church on a weekend retreat. My then-teenage niece Alexis and her cousin Lauren were there, too, and the three of us decided to go kayaking one hot and sunny afternoon.

Alexis got in a single kayak and I shared a double one with Lauren, with me in front. I’m not a good swimmer but I used to teach boating at summer camp many years ago so I was pretty confident that I could manage this without any problems.

A few simple instructions from the waterfront staff and we were ready to set off across the lake. After a little while, we noticed that Alexis always seemed to be ahead of us. I figured it was because her kayak was lighter with one person, but then I noticed that she was also rowing strongly, her paddle dipping deep into the water while mine was doing little more than scraping the top of the water. The harder I tried to paddle, the worse we seemed to do. What confused me even more was that, whenever I stopped paddling, it felt like we were moving faster.


After a quiet moment, Lauren suggested that I might be paddling the wrong way. I turned around to see what she was doing and noticed she was “pulling” the water with her paddles instead of “pushing” it.


I reversed the direction of my paddling and we began to glide across the water beautifully. You can imagine the great laugh we all had over this!

I later realized what went wrong: I was trying to row the same way I always did when sitting in a rowboat. That’s what I was used to. But in a rowboat—unlike in a kayak—you move backward, not forward.

I think there is a great lesson here!

Good intentions and a strong effort are not the same as doing the right thing. You can be sincere but sincerely wrong if you’re not moving in the right direction. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” God has an amazing purpose for your life. Unless you are willing to follow and obey Him, however, you won’t experience the blessings He has for you.

How are you rowing your “boat”? Are you moving in the right direction? Are you doing things God’s way? Is anything or anyone stopping you from moving forward? Isaiah 48:17 says, “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” Make sure you’re putting your trust in God. . .and not in your own wisdom!

This devotional is adapted from one of the weekend chapters in my last book, Truth & Dare – One Year of Dynamic Devotions for Girls. The little drawing, which appeared on that page, is by one of my favourite illustrators, Luke Flowers, who did all the artwork for my book.


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