There are millions of people who would love to do something daring: Live an adventure, take risks, see the world with new eyes. Each one of us, in our own way, wants to experience a life of vivid purposefulness, to live in the eternal now. We yearn for the joy that comes with growing into the life for which God created us.
Why do so few of us find it? In a world so full of beauty, why are so many lives tarnished by ugliness? In an abundant creation, why are so many naked, hungry, homeless? On this earth that God created and said it is good, what is the meaning of all the brokenness we experience in our lives?
At no time in my life have I yearned more fiercely than in my late teens and early twenties. Even though for much of my young adulthood I did not consider myself a Christian, I always hungered for the life and power of God’s kingdom. I wanted to experience a way of living that would connect me with my deepest purpose, unite me with a sense of meaning that went beyond me and my petty desires. I longed to witness a world transformed and to have my life turned upside down in beautiful and surprising ways.
There were a number of obstacles keeping me from entering this life of beauty and power. Not the least of these was my reluctance to take a personal leap of faith. As much as I burned for a world of vivid justice and love, deep down I expected someone else to take the first step. It was as if I were standing on the edge of a cliff, dying from thirst, desperate to taste the life-giving water that I knew lay below. But I could not bring myself to jump. It was too much to bear. What if no one jumped in after me? What if I drowned?
I excused my lack of courage by appealing to the importance of community. Surely I couldn’t do something so rash, so dangerous without others supporting me in it! Jesus was inviting me to abandon my priorities, my possessions, my very self, to come and be his disciple; seeking first the kingdom of God. But I wanted assurances. “I’ll jump,” I told myself, “but I need a community of people who are willing to hold hands with me and jump at the same time.”
I met together with other seekers like me. We talked about community, about what it might look like to hold hands and make that leap of faith together. We talked, and we talked some more. But we never jumped. We loved the beauty of the water below; we thirsted for it together. But when it came time to make a commitment, to make a life-altering choice, we walked away from the edge. We went our separate ways. We discovered that we were a community of dreamers, not cliff divers.
Still, I longed for that life of power that I knew could be mine, if only I would release my need for control and fall into the loving arms of God. But if it wouldn’t work to wait until there were others who were willing to hold hands and take the plunge with me. What alternative did I have? Did God really expect me to go it alone?
I discovered that there was another way down to the water: I could climb. Taking a little risk now can be more powerful than dreaming about a big risk in the future. Rather than demanding the immediate perfection that I imagined, I committed myself to the life-long journey of personal transformation. And, to my surprise, I found community there. I came across other climbers along the path, women and men following Jesus in the way of life.
As I grow into this community of everyday risks, I find God inviting me into bigger ones. As I draw closer to the water, it becomes less unthinkable to jump in. As I discover so many fellow risk-takers along the way, I find courage to move forward in faith, even when no one is holding my hand.