Rowing a Boat

By: Dennis Bates

Have you ever rowed a boat? I mean the old fashioned, sit in the middle of the seat, put the oars in the locks and pull kind of boat?

If you have, you know what a frustrating and humbling experience it can be. If you haven’t, it’s not too late to try it and you really should. It will make you think about things differently. Like so many things that appear to be basically easy, it’s not when you try to do it yourself.

First, there are the strength and stamina factors. It takes both and you really can’t have enough of either. If you don’t believe that,  you’ve never tried to row 100 yards as fast as you can. If you run that far, you’ll end up winded and gasping for breath. If you row that far, you’ll end up the same way, but you’ll also end up with every muscle from your ear lobes to your toes burning as well. Novices don’t realize how much leg strength it takes to row until they try to walk after getting out of the boat.

Second, and maybe this should have been first, you pull on the oars; you don’t push them. It seems simple enough, but once you actually get a pair of oars in your hands and the boat starts to go everywhere but where you wanted it to go, panic sometimes sets in, and you find yourself doing all kinds of weird things to get the boat going. Pushing is one of them. Just stay calm and remember that the classic definition of  a Village Idiot is someone who constantly pushes on doors marked pull.

Third, wind is not your friend. Even if it is behind you, it exacerbates every little imperfection causing you to go off course quicker. There are just some external forces in life that don’t help, and when you are trying to row a boat, wind is one of them. It goes without much elaboration that having the wind in your face makes you feel as if you’re going nowhere, and if you stop to catch your breath, that’s exactly where you’re headed.

Finally, and most importantly, rowing teaches us the importance of  teamwork, even if it’s just internally. Every part of your body has to know what its job is and do it. No more and no less. You learn quickly that you have a dominant side, that is one that is stronger than the other. Usually, if you’re right handed, your right side is stronger and vice versa. Of course, there are those of us who are right handed and lean to the left, but that’s another matter.

The point is that your dominant side can’t do what it naturally wants to do, which is dominate. If your right side tries to take charge, your boat veers to the right, ultimately making one huge right handed circle. If you tend to have a stronger left side, the boat veers to the left, ending up in large left handed circles. Whether you circle to the left or right doesn’t matter. You still end up back where you started, and that’s not a good thing.

However, if everything is in balance and you get into a nice rhythm, your boats cuts cleanly through the surface of the water and you end up at your destination tired, but refreshed and stronger for the effort. There is really no feeling like that. Strenuous anaerobic exercise can bring out the best in us if we practice it regularly.

Now…there has to be a metaphor in there somewhere,




2 Responses to Rowing a Boat

  1. cindyinsd says:

    Stop it, stop it! You’re making my arms hurt–and my knees, and, oh, everything. Just cut it out! 😆

    I tried rowing . . . once. I’m glad to hear you explain how difficult it is. I was asked to row against the current to keep a boat still for fishing, and I didn’t last over a few strokes. Couldn’t figure it out, wasn’t strong enough, not enough stamina. Only now I feel better since you’ve explained it. I’ll paddle a canoe any day over rowing a boat. Paddling a canoe doesn’t make your brain panic while the rest of your body flails senselessly and cluelessly.

    What a great metaphor for a small ekklesia trying to learn how to be the body of Christ together. It takes a while to learn how to receive those signals from the Head, and yes there are the stronger and weaker members who have to work together. Paul must have had less rowing experience than you or even than me, or I’m sure he would have used this. It would be too good to resist.

    • Dennis Bates says:

      To be totally honest, I don’t paddle all that well either. (g)Thanks for your comment. Sometime I’ll have to write about the time our fishing guide ran out of gas when our boat was as far from our cabin as it could get. Guess who got to row?

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