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Tag Archives: Trust

Choosing Between the Plane and the Freefall

There were fourteen people squashed inside the back of the gutted airplane. We couldn’t see much out of the windows. The smoke from Eastern Washington’s summer fires had finally rolled over the Cascades. Seated behind me, my tandem instructor said he would normally point out the nearby islands but they were lost in the grey. I nodded, a little disappointed we wouldn’t have a view for what was coming next.

“Spotty” asked me why I had decided to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. Good question.

“I like heights.” Besides, it seemed a better option than whitewater rafting. “You’ve got to choose something,” I said. Why not skydiving?

A cloudy view.

Spotty had been skydiving ever since his first jump for a hospice’s charity event.

“What’s your favorite part?” I asked him.

“Jumping out.”

Funny. That was the part my friends and I were most afraid of. If there was any point likely to test our courage, we felt sitting at the open door looking down at miles of open air would be it. Self-preservation tells you to stay seated. Courage is all talk until there’s nothing holding you up.

It wasn’t exactly the freefall that scared me though. I knew that part would be amazing. It’s called “the ultimate freedom” for a reason. I knew I would enjoy the flight up and the fall down, but it was the transition between the two that had me worried. Maybe it’s the self-preservation instinct, but I think it’s because I hate change.

I wish I had Spotty’s attitude in the rest of life. He didn’t choose either the plane or the freefall but rather the moment in-between. He had already jumped at least nine times that day, but it was still his favorite part of every trip. Lately life has felt like skydiving tandem with God, and I still dread the leaps of faith. I know I like where I am, and I know I will like where God calls me to next. Both are great. It’s just the in-between that terrifies me into paralysis.

Cross arms. Look up. Say a prayer.

Cross arms. Look up. Say a prayer.

When it came to it, I didn’t actually jump. And no one asked if I was ready. Instead, my instructor told me to put my arms in the “safety position”– crossed over my chest, like a dead person. We dangled our legs out the door. He told me to lean my head back and look up. And he pushed us off. One moment we were seated safely on the plane and the next we were plummeting through free air, 13, 500 feet off the ground.

Switching between the plane and the open air caught my breath. I couldn’t think, only react. So I screamed as loud as I could in the rushing air. It was as much from overwhelming joy as awe and terror. After the first few seconds of shock, I could put thoughts to what I was feeling: “This is really happening! I’m really here! This isn’t a dream! This is AMAZING!”

Flying with Spotty.

Flying in the airplane–seat-belted in safety–was a fun ride. The tandem instructors were cracking jokes. The new skydivers were nervously laughing. We had a pretty view of the ground through the windows. But skydiving…that was exhilarating. So much better than the airplane.

In the Christian life, there’s a similar choice of experiences. I could be safe and have a pleasant life without ever taking risks for Christ, but I don’t believe that’s the kind of life God wants for me. The other choice is to go all-in, giving up everything and following Christ whatever the cost on an adventure beyond my imagination. Too often, it’s tempting to settle for less than the exhilarating ride God offers. I pray that he will give me the courage to sit on the edge, the faith to look up, and the trust–when the time is right–to be pushed out.

“My lips will shout for joy,
when I sing praises to you;
my soul also, which you have redeemed.”
Psalm 71:23
When has God told you to jump in faith? Did you let fear keep you in the airplane, or did you jump gladly, trusting in him?
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Posted by on September 1, 2015 in Other thoughts

 

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Don’t Look Down; Here’s Why

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I hadn’t thought before how important it is to have a belayer you can trust. Now I know better.

Eighteen feet in the air, the boy peeked over his shoulder. He looked down, just like we told him not to do. His long arms and legs were splayed as he flattened himself to the rock wall. He was a bear cub stuck halfway up a tree trunk.

The boy’s 5th-grade classmates below shouted for him to keep going. But the boy ignored his classmates and looked at me, the stranger holding his rope. He didn’t know I had just learned to belay that morning. He only knew my camp name (Swing) and that somehow I was his lifeline to the ground.

“What happens if I fall?” he asked quietly.

Most of the kids had never tried rock climbing. Many were nervous and doubted whether they could make it to the top. They didn’t realize that it was more important to believe in my ability than their own, since I was the one who would catch them when they slipped.

Each child who approached the wall needed me to be more confident than they felt. So I automatically put on a positive attitude and bolstered them with encouragement as I clipped the rope to their harnesses.

“You won’t fall,” I told the boy-cub clinging to the wall. “I won’t let you.”

He seemed to consider it and looked around for his next step up. Then he peeked again.

“But what happens if I fall?”

I anchored myself with a wider stance and bent knees so I wouldn’t lose balance. Braking the rope, I offered, “Put your hands on the rope, and I’ll show you.” I wanted to prove he couldn’t come down as long as the rope held him up.

He took the rope in one shaking hand and then changed his mind. The spectators cheered louder as he found a new handhold and pulled a foot closer to the top. The next time he looked down, he said he was done. The fear of falling kept him from going any further.

Down on the ground, it was easy for me to think he should have trusted me more. I knew he was safe. But if real life is like rock climbing, I wonder if my faith in God is any stronger than that boy’s in me. If God told me to let go of the wall and dangle from my harness, would I? Or do I try to make it one foot higher on my own strength before giving up, afraid to fall?

Isn’t it interesting how close the word “fall” is to “fail”? How many times has fear of failing stopped me from reaching my goals? Like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yet when fear glues me to the wall, God tells me I won’t fall, not because of my own ability, but because he holds my rope. My mistakes won’t mean my death because he won’t let me go. He points out the footholds I can’t see and encourages me to keep climbing. With confidence in him, not myself, I can go on. It’s still hard work, of course, and my body will be sore from the effort. But I’m not on my own.

Later in the day, a girl told me she was worried about her injured back but she wanted to ring the bell at the top. I reassured her she could come down whenever she was ready. She started off well and then slowed about a third of the way. She had trouble finding her next steps. She squatted down instead of extending up. Her arms got tired.

The girl said she needed to rest, so I told her to let go of the wall and I would hold her up. She hung from the rope until she felt ready to continue. She took longer than any of the other kids that day, but she went to the top and finally rang that bell. When she came down, she breathed hard and said her arms hurt but her expression revealed something else.

The boy came down in shaking fear. She returned to earth in blooming awe and joy.

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2015 in Other thoughts

 

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“The One” Doesn’t Exist

Acquaintances and casual friends think I’m so stable. They make me laugh. Inside, it’s a non-stop tilt-a-whirl ride.

But just last week, I attended a seminar that helped to ground me. How? The speaker rejected the myth of “The One.” Addressing a small crowd of singles looking for love, he said, “There are literally hundreds of people you could have a very happy marriage with.”

I wanted to shout, “Hallelujah!” But this is the Northwest, not the Bible Belt.

Even though I consider myself a romantic, I gave up a long time ago the idea that there is only one person in the world to make me happy. I believe that having happiness in marriage has less to do with destiny and more so stubborn effort and a whole lot of grace. So an arranged marriage could be as fulfilling as a love marriage. Theoretically. But my actions have not matched my beliefs.

Listening to the speaker, I suddenly realized I have acted as if afraid to miss “The One.” I overthink, overanalyze, and overly obsess over the young men I meet and our every interaction. Sometimes it’s all I can do to whimper to God the monosyllabic, Help.

Other times I am more like the disciples shouting, “Don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38).

Credit: Abaconda Management Group, https://flic.kr/p/bdq7j6

Credit: Abaconda Management Group, https://flic.kr/p/bdq7j6

Then Jesus stands up, tells off the wind like disciplining a naughty child who knew better, and commands the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” (Mark 4:39).

Suddenly there is peace. The clouds are still there, but it has stopped raining.

I sit down with Jesus in the gently rocking boat, and he asks, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40).

At the seminar, the speaker’s words had the same effect.

The One doesn’t exist. And if that’s true, how should that change my fear? How should that impact my faith?

I’ve believed for so long that there was no Prince Charming coming to rescue me. Now the realization finally came that I can stop worrying about missing the prince’s white horse. There is no white horse to be waiting for.

What if marriage is more like a train leaving at 12 o’clock sharp? The train will leave without me if I’m not there when the conductor shouts, “All aboard!” But the thing is…there will be another train tomorrow.

The lie is that I need to seize onto every opportunity that comes along, any eligible young man who looks my way, or risk missing the one who is meant to be my life partner. If I don’t smile just so…walk over there…start a conversation…laugh at his jokes…look pretty… So what? Qué será, será.

It’s been fifteen years since I trusted my pastor to dip me in the river as a sign of my new life in Jesus. Rounding so many years of faith, I’m still learning to trust God. Every morning, I have to let myself be dipped in the waters all over again. Let go, he tells me. Why are you so afraid?

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2015 in Other thoughts

 

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How to Trust

Fear and doubt come naturally to me. I’m well-practiced there. You could say I was born knowing how to fear and doubt. Trust is in a different department, which can’t operate simultaneously. You can only have one or the other, and for me, fear and doubt usually overrules trust after only a short reign. 

This past week, it bothered me that trusting God doesn’t seem to be an attitude that sticks for long. One day, I can be totally devoted to God–fully convinced of his goodness, faithfulness, and love–then I wake up the next morning with fear having crept into my thoughts overnight.

Credit: "Dawn" by dan at freedigitalphotos.net

Credit: “Dawn” by dan at freedigitalphotos.net

When the doubts show their ugly mugs, I have to remind myself to trust God instead. Sometimes this is a minute-by-minute exercise. Doubts say that God is other than the Bible says he is. But if the Bible is right, then I can silence all doubts. The first letter of John says, “God is love” (4:16). “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:18-19).

With my mind focused on God, I have no reason to fear. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” This verse gives me reassurance when I’m feeling afraid since there’s the promise of “perfect peace” for anyone who is steadfastly trusting in God. Verse 26:4 then gives the guarantee for the promise, the reason why trusting God brings peace: “Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.” God dispels fear, like a lamp illuminating darkness, because he is unchanging and immovable. “I AM WHO I AM,” the Lord said to Moses (Exodus 3:14).

God is worthy of trust. We do not need to fear because we know God loves us and he will never change. He promises it. He says he will never abandon us. He will do anything for those he loves, even sacrifice his son Jesus to rescue us from death.

As you think on where Christmas started, with a baby “wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger,” remember that God loves you as much as he did on that night in Bethlehem when he gave the greatest gift the world has ever seen. Then let God silence your fears and doubts.

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2013 in Other thoughts

 

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