Making the Leap to a Better Place

I went for a walk in the woods.  Journeying home, I took an alternate route and came to a place where I had to cross a stream. Too wide to jump, I found a spot where others had made a bridge. There were broken branches, pieces of full trees, all now mostly rotted. I put my foot lightly on one log but it quickly submerged. I tested others but they also were too bouncy and unstable to support my weight.

I stood there for a while, contemplating what combination of careful steps and quick jumps might result in a dry crossing. I had a sick feeling that, regardless of whatever I tried, I was going to lose my balance and get wet.  Still, I had no interest in staying in a place of indecision and angst. I needed to pursue home and get to the other side.  And so, I got up the courage to go for it and cross. Sure enough, as I took my first step, I lost my balance and plunged one leg into the stream, soaking shoes, socks, and pants.  I then quickly regrouped, figuring the worst was done, and went across this time successfully, albeit, a little cold and soggy.

This experience is a great metaphor for certain decisions in life.  We need the courage to change our situation, find a better place, and pursue home—that place of authenticity, integrity, joy, and God’s approval. Maybe we’ve lost hope that there is a better place. Or, maybe we’ve experienced more than our share of rejection or failures. And, because of this, we’ve lost all confidence to try new things. We’ve buried our best selves and, at least when it comes to changing our circumstances, we’re full of excuses: it might be unpleasant, we’ll disappoint or discourage others, we might fail. We don’t want our decisions to hurt dear friends potentially left behind or bring any possible harm to those we’re responsible for. And so, we do nothing and settle for a caged existence of fear, anger, and resignation.

Again, we need to take a step, get on, and do something. But instead we stay comfortably numb and distract ourselves from the complication and work of making a change. Yet, trying to simplify our lives is rarely a passive or guilt-free process: You can’t please everyone, nor can you get to a better place without doing something and disappointing someone.

Fear of anything but God (Prov. 1:7) is a poor master.

Of course, impulse is also a bad master and the wise will wait on God’s timing. The late Anglican pastor and theologian, John Stott said this:

“It is a mistake to be in a hurry or to grow impatient with God.  It took him about 2,000 years to fulfill his promise to Abraham in the birth of Christ.  It took him eighty years to prepare Moses for his life’s work.  It takes him about twenty-five years to make a mature human being.  So then, if we have to make a decision by a certain deadline, we must make it.  But if not, and the way forward is still uncertain, it is wiser to wait.  I think God says to us what he said to Joseph and Mary when sending them into Egypt with the child Jesus: ‘Stay there until I tell you’ (Matt. 2:13).  In my experience, more mistakes are made by precipitate action than by procrastination.”[1]

Stott’s counsel is an essential caution and has served me well over the last twenty years. If you’re in a place, however, where you’ve lived in frustration and stagnation for a long time—regularly fighting bitterness and despair—it may be time for action. This is especially the case when we find ourselves bound by a voluntary association (job, church, etc.) that doesn’t represent who we really are. Some contexts are not a fit, nor are they conducive to growth. They stifle creativity, freedom, and movement, or they provide no margin for the same. Some churches and related associations, for example, are cages of control where me and mine are in and you and yours are out. In a desire to “guard the truth”—and often, honestly, to keep the power—litmus tests and straitjacket rules are put in place to make sure members stay in rank.

Straightjackets were designed to control people that can’t be trusted to think for themselves. But for healthy people, straightjackets are not only uncomfortable, they keep us from living.

I gave up mine because I couldn’t move my arms. When you can’t move your arms, you can’t discover what’s in your hands or do what’s in them with all your might (Eccl. 9:10).

Leaving and making the leap to a better place involves saying no to fear and risk. It means you must take a step to live what you truly believe. Yes, we all need accountability (Hebrews 13:17), but we also need freedom to think and love God with our minds. Moreover, we need freedom to pursue God’s voice and God’s purposes with integrity and reckless abandon.

Are there steps you need to take to pursue home; specifically, that place where you best fit, belong, and can serve God and others wholeheartedly and with integrity? Is it time to stop contemplating and commit to action? If your heart has been stirred and unsettled for quite some time, I encourage you to leave fear aside and take your first step. Be assured, leaving one shore to get to the next won’t kill or hurt you. Yes, it may be a little unpleasant and require a change of clothes, but that’s the price of getting home.  And, honestly, the gift is worth the demand. Growth, integrity, and a place where you’re able and encouraged to be all God intended you to be are worth the pursuit.

[1] Authentic Christianity, edited by Timothy Dudley-Smith (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1995), 249.

Carpenter | Theologian (cover photo by Ken Larter)