For years, I have described my faith as one of jumping off of a cliff.
As someone who has struggled (and continues to struggle because, really, these things are part of who we are) with anxiety for most of my life, the hardest part of following Jesus has always been giving up control. I am a type A crazy who is 1. really, weirdly good and planning and administrating and keeping a million things organized and managed and moving, and 2. really, terribly bad at letting go of the death-grip I have on my life.
I like to know where I’m headed, and I tend to be pretty good at getting myself there. So the prospect of “God’s plan is better than my plan,” while beautifully, amazingly good, is also terribly, impossibly hard – especially for my little control-freak brain. I have to remind myself every day that I am not in control – and I often physically open my fists to remember to let go.
So years ago, when I first started telling my story (you know, the whole me + Jesus + people + life thing that fancy Christians like to call a testimony), I tried to put into words how it felt to live in my brain. I wanted to communicate my particular propensity for control, and my own experience learning how to let go. And I landed on the image of jumping off a cliff. Logical.
Here’s the gist: we are all sitting on the edge of a cliff. That is life. And we can choose to hang desperately on to the side of the wall, attempting to boulder our way around, getting from place to place. It’s hard. It’s exhausting. You are relying on your own strength, but if you have muscles and skills, you might actually appreciate being able to choose your direction and feel confident that you are holding yourself up. Except that gets old after a while. And eventually your arms feel like they are going to fall off (seriously, have you been rock climbing recently? Pretty sure I ended up involuntarily twerking last time as my muscles completely gave out after an hour or so).
The other option is far scarier (at least for me), and it is this: running, full speed ahead, off the face of the mountain. Jumping, and trusting that someone else is in control. Risking everything on the hope (and faith) that God has a plan that is better. Knowing that you might fall flat on your face, but trusting that instead you are going to fly. This is what letting go feels like to me. Jumping off of a mountain.
For a long time, this was an analogy. A way to describe my loopy, swoopy thoughts about life (I have a lot of theories, guys. Just wait until I write about balloons and anchors…). But now I know that this actually makes sense. Because, guess what?
On Saturday, I jumped off of a cliff.
A real one. A literal, actual mountain. And I’ve never been so sure that this is what it feels like for me to follow Jesus.
But for you to really understand, I think I need to back up a bit.
For Christmas, Mike gave Melanie a paragliding trip in Mendoza. And since Melanie was going to Mendoza with me, Mike essentially gave me the requirement to go paragliding. Thanks, buddy 🙂
Excited by the prospect of flying, but also slightly (a lot) terrified, I said yes and we pieced together WhatsApp messages and phone calls to make arrangements with our new friends at Parapente Mendoza.
It wasn’t the height or the flying that made me nervous, it was that I had zero knowledge of the guy to whom I would strap myself and trust with my life. I didn’t know anything about him, his training or his confidence. And I was about to (literally) bind my success to his. Control freak problem number one.
But then I got to know Mario. Sweet Mario who started paragliding at age 18 and is now 50. Mario, who was exceedingly careful about the wind – preferring to lose a sale than take us up when the conditions weren’t ideal. Who traveled around the world learning new paragliding techniques so that he would always be improving. Mario, who drove out of his way to pick us up from home so that we wouldn’t have to take the bus all the way across town.
Once I knew Mario, the prospect of trusting him became a lot easier.
Which is a lot like Jesus, actually.
Crazy how that works.
When we know the character of God – who God is and what he is about and his history (hello, Old Testament, my dear friend!) – then we can more easily give our lives to him because we have some basis of who the heck we are trusting. If you want help here, I highly, a million times recommend a book called Knowledge of the Holy by AW Tozer.
So, here we are with Mario, day one. I have now psyched myself up to fly, and while I’m still nervous, I’m ready to go. Except the wind was decidedly not ready. We waited and waited, but it was far too windy to make a safe jump. Disappointed, we returned home – reminded yet again that (surprise!) we are not in control.
Our timing is not God’s timing. Because we don’t control the wind.
The next morning, we tried again. This time we made it all the way to the top of the mountain after a TERRIFYING drive up a narrow, rocky path. Again, I psyched myself up. Again, I was ready to go. And again, God said wait. Wind. You are not in control.
So we waited.
Mario – the expert, the master, the only one who had any idea what was happening – said it was time to go. He prepared the parachute. He pulled at strings and cords and fabric and strapped me into a harness and put a helmet on my head. The whole time, I was acutely aware that I didn’t know anything about anything in this situation. I was totally out of control and completely dependent on someone else’s skills. Ugh. Not a place I like to be very often.
Pretty much the only instruction for paragliding is this: when he says run, run. That’s it. And the only way it gets dangerous is if you get tentative and nervous and don’t move your feet. That is how you fall and trip and get caught in the parachute.
So Mario said run.
And I ran.
Full speed ahead toward the edge of a mountain. My feet hit the ground, one, two, three, until they weren’t touching anything anymore.
All of a sudden, I was flying.
It was amazing and beautiful and breathtaking and fun. I took goofy GoPro photos and laughed and celebrated the fact that I had (literally) handed over the reins to someone I had grown to know and trust. It was the most fun adventure.
After 20 minutes, we landed – safely – on solid ground, in the exact spot where we were supposed to be. Funny how that happens.
Despite my ability to articulate (and now experience) my “jumping off a cliff” mentality, it’s a whole lot harder in practice. Every day, I have to remember that God is in control (and therefore, I am not). Every day, I have to remember that I get to live this adventure because it’s God’s not mine. And every day, I am grateful grateful grateful that I know and trust the one to whom I have given the reins – which means that if I’m willing to run and jump, then I get to just enjoy the ride.
So there you go. A nice, deep, Jesus-y metaphor about paragliding and control.
Also, if you ever find yourself in Mendoza, Argentina and want to go paragliding, I cannot recommend Mario, Maxi, Emmanuel, and the whole team from Parapente Mendoza enough. They are wonderful.