When I was a teenager, I was part of one of those amazing 1990s youth groups that was so ridiculously cool, Buzzfeed made posts about us 30-something years later (seriously, just google Buzzfeed youth group). On one our mission trips, we got to spend a day on a lake in West Virginia, waterskiing, tubing and cruising the lake on a pontoon boat, after camping all night (in the pouring rain of course). I learned all my water-sport skills from youth group and on this trip, I was trying to learn to dive.
I knew how it looked in my head. I knew I wanted to do it. I knew I was going to do it. But then I would stand on the edge of the boat and have my youth-pastor's wife Shelly, go over the mechanics again ... and again ... and again. Finally, as I stood with my diving arms out and over my head, leaning toward the water's surface, knees bent to spring, I started to ask another question and Shelly put her hand between my shoulder-blades and shoved me into the water.
It was brilliant.
I learned to dive that day.
A few summers later, I stood at the top of of 70 foot platform overlooking the adventure park. Harnessed at hips and shoulders and attached to the rope, I was stuffing down every human instinct to LIVE. My hands are currently sweating as I remember that moment of youthful invincibility. I was terrified, but I also couldn't stand the thought of being too scared to actually do it.
I screamed all the way down with my eyes closed, clutching the foam-covered spring to my chest as if it was going to help. I opened my eyes and screamed all the way UP as the spring brought me upward, and then I took a breath and screamed all the way down to the pillow below.
But I can boast to my kids that I bungee jumped.
As an adult, I've come to more platforms and felt the fear as I look over the edge. The leaps are much less glamorous: Do you buy a new fridge or a used one from Craigslist? Do you stop your good-enough business to do something closer to your heart? Do you address the situation that you see brewing or do you ride it out and hope it resolves on its own?
I am not a good decision maker. It's one of the things I hate about myself the most.
Peter Rollins once described Rob Bell this way: "He just never looks back. He's just moving forward."
I have often thought about that and wished that I could be described that way. Fix your attention in a direction and go there fearlessly. No hemming and hollering. No need to be pushed off the boat. No screeching all the way down and all the way up and all the way back down again.
I don't know if I could ever be that person. My personality is one that wants to bring as many people along with me as I can, not just forge ahead on my own. I don't know if I will ever be fearless. I don't know if I will ever be able to make a decision quickly and decisively. I don't know if I will be able to avoid driving my friends and family insane by talking about it, and talking about it, and talking about it before I finally jump or get pushed.
I guess that is why, in the context of relationships, I give people a LOT of time and space. Even if it is obvious they should just jump off the boat. Even if I am tired of explaining the mechanics or listening to the possible outcomes. I have this idea that people know what they want to do. They are just getting ready to do it. I recently heard this amazing quote from John Philip Newell
"Spirituality does not consist of being told what to do, but it consists of being reminded of who we are."
It's true I needed a push to get off the boat. I'm sure you could almost feel that satisfaction in it. I bet you can imagine all kinds of situations you would love to just push somebody: the 11-year-old with the loose tooth. The husband who hates his job. The friend in conflict who just needs to make a change. It sometimes feels like all they need is a good shove. But often, that instinct is more about us wanting them to be done with their transition sooner because transitions are annoying. In a weird way, Shelley was actually affirming me by shoving me. She wouldn't have pushed somebody off the boat who couldn't swim. She wouldn't have pushed somebody off the boat who couldn't learn. She wouldn't have pushed somebody off the boat who didn't know the necessary mechanics of diving. That would have been mean. Instead, she was communicating loud and clear that I was capable. That I had all the information I needed to proceed. That even though I was scared, I could still do it. Which I why I came up out of the water laughing, climbed up on the boat and spent the rest of the day diving off it again and again. And why I climbed that 70 foot platform and jumped off. Because ultimately, being scared and screaming doesn't erase the fact that I am a person who will do things that scare me to death. That is who I am.
So I don't know what you are facing right now, but I know that you are loved.
You are more creative than you know.
You are made in the image of God.
You have something inside of you that is good and sacred.
And you know what to do, even if you are scared to do it.
Consider this your shove.