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Cliff Jumping

A friend once told me that we live on the edge because if we don’t, we’re taking up too much space. It was catchy, and I thought about it and chuckled; I’ll give it to him, it was clever. But the more I think of it, the more the picture doesn’t satisfy. Someone groping and clinging to the edge of a great cliff, determined to “live on the edge” and all that, is still groping and clinging just like the rest of us. And to what? Solid ground I guess, stability maybe.

Many people are considered to be hip risk-takers without ever taking death-defying jumps off cliffs. There are people who actually do that sort of thing though, jump off cliffs. They run up to the edge, but then they don’t stop—they go full throttle off the edge and into, well, nothing. They just jump.

They generally fall into a deep body of water or something comparable and live to tell the tale. They are called heroes or idiots—depending on whom you ask.

This morning I was talking to a family member—she really feels like God is on the verge of doing something amazing in her and her husband’s marriage, but she didn’t know how to do it. I of course jumped on my soapbox and lectured that about how it’s not about doing, it’s about letting Jesus have full reign in your heart to will and to do His good pleasure in our hearts—to literally change us from the inside out.

Then she was super honest and said that she was terrified because it could be different from what she expected. It could mean giving up things that were important to her and changing.

We always seem to be ready for other people to “get it together” but allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and open to change is generally more of a challenge. I did not have a prepared speech to answer this one. She had a point, a good one. So I sat there and held her hand and thought.

She lives “on the edge” and has no problem with that, but she was poised to jump off the cliff into the no man’s land called faith. Pithy clichés and “how to” books no longer suffice when there is nothing between you and absolute failure but Jesus. Jesus wants it all, and that doesn’t leave much room for clinging and groping to the edge.

And then an amazing thing, I started to recall things in the past months of my life; I saw them coming together and arranging themselves to parallel her journey today. I started to tell her about how back in February a friend and I were memorizing Philippians 3:7-9 and how it was really doing a number on us. If I’m going to consider it all a loss and whatever was to my profit as garbage, then this was going to be huge.

I told her how I felt like I was on the edge of cliff, and if I jumped and really bought into the whole “all a loss thing,” it just might ruin my whole life and change everything.

I was on the verge of graduating from college in three months at the time. I had a lovely community of believers I worshipped with in my college town and loved the friends I had made there. God was working and moving in that church, and I thought I would never leave it. I was all set to become a high school teacher in the coming fall and the job offers had started rolling in. All was well in the world.

The alternatives of not becoming a teacher right away and moving away from my friends and the good things I had there was unthinkable. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I had a feeling if I gave it up to Jesus, I would actually have to give it up in reality too.

But God gave me the faith to pray it anyway—and to mean it and to trust that considering it all a loss and tossing everything I had going for me out the window was going to reap a harvest of, well, something. I believed that though the “good plan” would no longer be in effect, that there would be something, dare I hope, better for me on the other side.

So I prayed that all would be a loss.

Jesus told me to turn down the jobs. So I did. And waited. And waited. I had always thought that waiting time after jumping off the proverbial cliff was a cruel and twisted thing—I mean you only have so much air to zip through before you’re thrown into the ground. But I was surprised. It wasn’t that way at all, and waiting was suddenly just the right thing. That was three months ago.

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It was strange sitting with my family today talking about it and realizing looking back, my premonitions were right this time—it ruined my whole life. I thought I had a good thing planned. I wanted to be a good friend and a good wife eventually and a good mom; all good things, but talking to Jesus about Philippians 3:7-9 ruined it. I was so afraid it would cost me everything: my friends, my family, my picket fence life. And it did. It cost me everything.

My worst fears came true. It ruined my life and cost all the things I was so afraid to give up. But the incredible thing—amazing and mind blowing—is here on the other side of "ruined life." I’m so thankful and fulfilled and brimming over in my heart. Jesus wants it all; nothing else will do.

Out of the rubble of "the plan" and "the dreams" blooms a well-watered garden (like it says in Isaiah 55). I knew it to be true in my head and even in my heart: if we jumped off the cliff and just threw ourselves on God’s mercy to make something of us, apart from our own righteousness and our own plans, it would turn out right, and we would be blessed would have deep down sweet contentment and joy. I knew it in my head, but now I have seen it with my eyes. It’s true.

I jumped a cliff. One of many I’m sure, but it’s nice to survive the first.

It’s weird to have a story to tell now, to be one of those people who have seen God work in absolutely incredible personal way. Today is the day I mail off my final applications to be a missionary and aid worker in North Africa of the Middle East. It is a funny end to the random journey of these past months. You have to understand, I didn’t really want to be a missionary, or at least I didn’t really think it was a plausible use of my time. It didn’t adhere to the good ole’ “plan.”

I’m really glad I got rid of that old thing, because the edge isn’t what it used to be. I won’t go back to clinging and groping to the stability of this world; not today at least. Hero or idiot? Neither, I say, but you can call me what you will. Everyone else does.

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