What if?

“What color bathing suit was your son wearing?”

 The Sheriff’s voice on the other end of my cell phone is calm, matter of fact. He can’t see my wrinkled brow as I struggle to recall the photo I’d taken of my son four hours earlier.

He was standing ankle deep in the river wearing a red life vest and…

“Black knee-length swim trunks.”

“How much does he weigh?”

Am I really having this conversation? I’ve never dialed 911 to report a missing person, or in this case, persons. My teenage son went river rafting with my grown daughter and her boyfriend.

And now I’m standing on a tall embankment, with my husband, staring down at the river’s swift current. Thankfully, the water is shallow, but the boulders on the riverbed would have slowed their progress; made the trip challenging.

What if the raft deflated? What if someone’s injured? What if they’re stranded on a riverbank?

“I wouldn’t bother you Sheriff, but they should have been here an hour ago. And the sun is setting!”

My voice is steady, but there are high-pitched voices in my head: What if they got separated from each other? What if their raft was carried further down river?

Warm skin tingles as dusk settles over the mountains, ushering in a cool breeze. What if they have to spend the night outdoors?

“Stay by your phone,” he says. “I’m calling search and rescue.”

His words conjure horrific news reports. I tell myself, Don’t go there!

My husband and I drive a short distance along a gravel road that parallels the river. We stop, searching the horizon for signs of life.

Within minutes, my heart jumps. “A beige raft!”

“How many people?”

“I only see two.”

I wave my arms like sheets in the wind until my daughter waves back with her paddle.

“Three, I see three people!”

 My husband hurries down the dirt path to the river’s edge while I notify the Sheriff. “We found them!”

Three exhausted, dripping wet, shivering bodies walk into my eager embrace. They reassure us, “We weren’t in danger.” But relief is written on their somber faces.

A half hour later, back at camp, night is dark as coal. Tears stream down my cheeks as I praise God for protecting our children, and sparing us from the multitude of what ifs that could have happened. But didn’t.

  “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22, 23)