“Maybe that’s what religion is, hurling yourself off a cliff and trusting that something bigger will take care of you and carry you to the right place.”
― Maria Semple, Where’d You Go, Bernadette
Shortly after I flung myself off the rope swing, we were paddling along and one of my friends cheered, “There’s the cliffs!”
Great. Seriously God? Did you forget that I already did my brave thing today?
Why? Why a cliff?
As we paddled up to the rock side, my one friend and then the other two climbed up and leaped out into the beautiful deep pool. It wasn’t outrageously high, but yet again I found myself mired in my own fear. When is fear keeping me safe. . . and when is it holding me back? I inched my way up onto the cliff, like some elementary school kid mustering her courage to go off the diving board for the first time.
I peered out into the water–felt some vertigo–and moved back. Oh crap that’s high. Seriously? Why can’t we just go to Holiday Inn for our vacations as my friend Jo suggests?. . . I moved back and forth analyzing, thinking, thinking, overthinking. My friend even got a picture of me standing in the bushes, staring at the ground pondering all the multiple ways I might die from this–and how my friends would have to lug my body out of the wilderness along with their canoes and gear. This picture maybe most accurately depicts how adventuresome I actually am.
“You can do it Evi!” one of my friends hollered from down in the water. I looked out at my friends, treading water with their life vests on in the beautiful Woohoo After. This wasn’t about my fear. This was about being together, about challenging ourselves and supporting each other in what we can do and what we can’t. And from their cheers and that space of grace the courage came–being handed to me in the most beautiful and strange ways again and again. Just two seconds is all you really need to get off the cliff.
When I hit the water, my feet whooshed down like a rocket. Deeper than the rope swing, I had to push myself up and up to the surface to join my friends, once again the Woohoo After, this time bigger, better. . . together.
Funny thing is, it’s not up to us to do all of this on our own. What, after all, would be the fun in that? What if real courage is collective, what if we’re missing the best part when we try to go at it all alone?
Read along to Part Six.