There I was, sopping wet and shivering, standing 15 feet suspended in the air looking down at a blue expanse that seemingly spelled my doom. Clutching the sides of the death trap I tried to steady my breathing and not curl up into fetal position.
What was it about this water in front of me that called me to jump, and what was this other terrifying sensation that insisted that I do nothing of the sort?
Exhilaration followed by paralyzing fear and then followed by a decision I had to make. Jump and discover the unknown, or climb back down to the safety of solid ground and certainty.
I hate to admit it but I have made the decision to climb back down those steps more times than I can count. Each time carrying a burden of shame and regret back down with me.
But man, I remember when I finally took that leap. Air flew through my air, the world raced past me as an exhilarating sound escaped my lungs, and then the splash! Ice cold water enveloped me for a second like a great big hug and then I rose up out of the water, feeling free and finding myself rushing back to the stairs to experience it all again.
Freedom. Exhilaration. Awe. Bewilderment.
It was all waiting for me at the end of the jump and I absolutely loved it.
That summer I spent hundreds of hours racing back up that rickety ladder to experience the joy of the jump over and over again. Summer faded into autumn, and the seasons took their course, taking the memories of those feelings with them.
The next summer I climbed up the ladder again, I saw the water welcoming me back, and I dove with a giant grin on my face, just to have the surface greet me with the loudest sound and the most painful belly flop that pool had ever seen. This did not feel like freedom, and exhilaration: this felt like betrayal.
And just like that, all of the joy that I had expereienced the previous summer, all of the the fun memories, were wiped away from my memory with one resounding SPLAT!
All I could seem to believe about that water then was that it was unforgiving and cold and frigid. Fear became an unwelcomed guest and the terror at the top of the diving board appeared once more.
The times that I’ve experienced the pain of a belly flop when jumping off that platform make the next jump harder if not paralyzing. It’s much easier for me to climb back down the ladder into comfort and certainty instead of experiencing that pain again.
It’s the same with life isn’t it?
It can look like a lot of different things. A new relationship, a job opportunity, a move, etc.. It starts with excitement and endless possibilites, but sometimes something happens and I leave the situation feeling hurt, betrayed and a lot of the times angry at God for the outcome. These times or situations feel like full belly flops and they hurt.
This has translated into my life as the fear of failure, fear of the unknown, and anxiety about outcomes I can’t control, forgetting about the amazing things that I have experienced and the times that I have felt abundant joy and God’s prescence in my life.
Has anyone else been there?
John 10:10 Says the thief comes to kill, steal and destroy. Fear is a thief. Fear will do anything it can to keep me on the sidelines, at the top of the ladder looking down, or paralyzed from making any decisions. It will remind of the pain and all of the things that could go wrong. It wants to keep from doing anything, especially jumping, trusting.
Yesterday I was having coffee with a friend and he reminded me of something.
God is at the end of each jump regardless of the outcome. He celebrates with me in the triumphs and will be there to comfort me in the flops. The water is cool and refreshing and filled with His love and His strength.
To experience this I must jump.
Jumping is scary, especially when all we can remember or feel beforehand is the time we were met with a jarring landing instead of a welcome embrace.
God’s challenge to us is to jump anyway.
Joshua 1:9 ” Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
John10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
This week may we jump and experience God’s love in a new and profound way. May we live this life we have been given to the full.