Thinking Out Loud

July 17, 2020

Cliff Jumping and Exotic Food

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:20 am

While working at one of the two summer camps I served at in my 20s, a few weeks in to one season I felt that the ten of us who comprised the senior staff were somewhat detached from the cabin life experienced by the counselors. Several of these cabins had extra seats in the dining room and I suggested we pick a cabin for the week and join in them for lunch — at breakfast key leaders were planning as they ate, and at supper we were debriefing — and maybe drop in to their devotional time once or twice or join them on a cabin activity.

I quickly learned that you don’t introduce structures like this when the summer is already in progress, but of the ten of us, three people bought in to some degree. The counselors were always happy to have an extra adult at the table, and the kids could ask questions about the camp.

The cabin activity I chose for one cabin involved taking the kids on two boats to an island where we would park the boats on the west side and then jump into the lake off a 45-foot cliff on the other side. I was a decent enough swimmer that this didn’t concern me in the least.

This is more or less what it looked like, though we didn’t allow the kids to dive. If you ever find yourself doing this, make sure you take a good step or jump forward to avoid the rock outcrop you can’t always see under the water.

Until I went to the ledge of the cliff and looked down.

I’ve known people much younger than myself who were jumping 65-feet off a bridge into a river, but for some reason I was gripped by fear with this shorter plunge mostly because I had simply never done anything like this before.

It was then it occurred to me that if these kids were going to have any respect for the camp leadership — and especially respect us as we shared Jesus with them — I needed to push back the fear and take a running leap.

I ended up jumping in at least four more times that day. I will confess it is exhilarating, but I also need to state for the record that this whole ‘leaping’ genre is something that still fills me with great fear. Anything on a screen where someone dives out of an airplane causes me to close my eyes until the story is over, or change the channel. I think the cliff jumping precipitated a few bad dreams in the years which immediately followed.

But I stand by my decision to do it. The kids weren’t going to have faith in a camp leadership made up of wusses. (Hoping that word still means the same thing as it did.) And for the remaining days of that week, those kids and I had enjoyed a shared experience…

…Fast forward a few decades and my mind goes to people I’ve met who are in a similar leadership position. They’re standing on the edge of the cliff, so to speak, and people are watching them to see if they’re willing to jump or are afraid.

The cliff they’re perched on may have to do with any one of a number of everyday activities, and if there are enough of these, their life become characterized by things they are afraid to try, places they are afraid to go, food they are afraid to taste.

And again, I find myself asking the question I asked decades earlier: How can people respect our Christian testimony and ministry if our lives are marked by such apprehension over so many things? But don’t stop reading here, because maybe it’s not 100% about him, but also about me…

…As I thought about writing this at various points over the past few years — I did a search this morning to see if the phrase “cliff jumping” was contained here — something dawned on me which had never occurred to me previously: This type of fear nag at me because it can partially reflect my own.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll try the activity (though physical ones not so much as the years advance), I’ll enter the place in the city that is foreign to my comfort zone, I’ll eat the Middle Eastern or central Asian food, I’ll fly to the vacation destination.

But we all have anxiety issues over all manner of things. With some people they’re buried deep and with others they appear on the surface; yet each of us has things which produce a mental or even physiological reaction when seen, named or proposed.

…I can’t help notice the preponderance of books about fear and anxiety in the Christian market over the past ten years or so. With Max Lucado — the top selling Christian author — it’s the major of theme of at least four of his works.

Christians are not exempt or immune from anxiety, and we need those reminders to trust, cling, rely on our Lord. Further to that, we also need to realize that seeing the fears others experience might exist front of mind because they are reflecting are own nervous apprehension over other, completely unrelated things.

We don’t necessarily identify with the particular object of the other person’s anxiety, but we certainly identify with the emotion.

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Your Response (Value-Added Comments Only)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: