Friday, November 14, 2014

The Cliff Jumpers (and other leaps of faith)

My idea of adventure has typically been switching laundry detergents, so it may surprise some people to learn that I would, as previously mentioned, point to a dot on a foreign map and declare that my family would go there in two days. But a sense of adventure, I'm discovering, is essential to any journey with God as the mapmaker.

Now, that does not have to mean a willingness to jump out of planes or volunteer for a knife-throwing class. We all know where our own personal sense of adventure threshold is. One of mine, for instance, was reached swimming in the Cinque Terre, when our daughters decided to join the cliff jumpers. 

You have to know, none of us swims particularly well. But, this beach (using the term loosely; the "beach" was a group of large slate rocks) was quite sheltered, and the rocks from which people jumped faced inland, not out to sea. Still, they were high. Far too high.

Middle child was the first to go, and in her usual straightforward manner, she walked up to the mid-height cliff, sized it up, and jumped before she could worry about it too much. Then ventured oldest child, who hesitated long and much. She liked not the look of the rocks beneath. So, in her typical fashion, she quite logically went up to the highest outcrop where the guys were, about thirty feet, and leapt from there instead. She was the only girl willing to do so that day.

I could handle this only because I watched through the lens of a camera. Somehow, this distanced me from the actual events, and I did not have to cope with the fact that my offspring were hurling themselves into the Mediterranean from heights greater than our rooftop.

It seems a consistent theme that God's followers in Scripture were willing to take the road less traveled. They were willing, no, eager, to pack up their sense of adventure and discover the path God mapped for them that no one else had considered.

Ruth joyfully chose to accompany her mother-in-law to a strange land with strange people, not knowing how she would be received or if she would survive. She did not consider turning back to the understood and known.

Mary of Bethany chose to sit at Jesus' feet, in a place only men had ever been allowed to sit, learning from her Rabbi. It wasn't the role for a woman. She had no idea how or if she would be accepted. She did not consider going back to the kitchen where it was warm and comfortable.

Paul risked his life through shipwreck, beating, and imprisonment. Yet he continued on to the next adventure, always. He never considered going back to a life of easy certainty and established position.

God's people routinely had the option of looking over that cliff and walking back down the path toward safety. But they jumped instead. (I suppose that some of them also had mothers watching in fear as they did.)

Some of us are called to jump into uncertainty when we encounter challenges to strongly held doctrine. Are we as sure we know as we thought we were? Is God calling us to rethink and reconsider? Is it scary or exciting to let God shake us out of our self-assurance and into deeper discovery?

Some are asked to jump into places we've never been or roles for which we don't think we're qualified. The easy, well-walked path tempts us to stay where we know we won't be stretched and possibly fail. But God is asking for a leap.

Some are just called to wait in what feels like darkness, when striking out on a well-lit path seems safer and sensible.

A sense of adventure led us a few evenings after the cliff jumping to our most peaceful moment in Rome. Against middle child's protests that we were going in a ramp that stated “Exit only,” we walked, rambling into the Roman Forum area after hours and nearing sunset. Which is why we found ourselves at the top of a hill, overlooking the city, with only two young families to share the moment of a perfect sunset over matching pink buildings and glowing marble.

Without a willingness to scout out the road less traveled, we would have missed that glorious moment.

What are the glorious moments God has for you? What road is He asking you to take? What leap is He beckoning you to make?

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