Monday, July 16, 2007

Free Fall

Seven year old Amber climbs one step at a time, reminding herself not to look down. Friends and strangers join her in a vertical line, and she waits on each rung for the next sound of a splash. Gradually the splashes stop getting her wet. The sound is fainter by a slight bit.

At last she is alone at the top of the ladder. Amber knows there are people behind her, but she won't look down. Clinging to the rails, she sees a blue-painted plank extending into space. Empty space. A surge of excitement and pride pries her hands from the rails and she takes a step forward. The board is wider than it looks from the ladder, wide enough for four feet her size to stand side by side. Reason and confidence reassure her. Once on the end of the board, poised above what she knows is a deep pool of water, she looks up, bends her knees, and propels herself forward one more time.

The sensation of falling drops her into slow motion. A thousand thoughts fill each second, each centimeter of movement. She is falling. What has she done? Amber twists, and throws her arms above her head, flailing for a hold. But there is no going back. The freedom is kind of nice. She lets out a squeal of delight just before her feet begin the splashing, and the water covers her head.

The first time I remember feeling it was in high school when I found out my best friend wasn't going with me on my first mission trip. What had I gotten myself into? All the way to North Dakota, and no friend? No one to prod me into action? No one who understood what I meant when I hadn't said anything. A scary new experience without companionship.

Since then, the feeling comes whenever I commit to something important. Fortunately it doesn't come before I volunteer; then I'm usually in a surge of confidence knowing this is exactly what God wants me to do. But afterwards, when I start doing the actual work...

I taught a ladies' Bible study over a year ago. Before we started, when I was writing lessons, I remember telling a friend that I was overwhelmed - not with writing or teaching or responsiblity, but with the need to stay focused on God for such a long time so that I would hear Him when I was teaching and set a good example for everyone else. I realized my volunteering for the teaching job was more than a three hour commitment on Wednesdays. My whole walk was committed as spiritual preparation.

Don't get me wrong. Christians should be faithful to God and avoiding sin whether they're teachers or not. I like the reminder of the need to rely on Him - of having no where else to turn. But like a Amber, I always have that uncomfortable feeling when there is no going back.

Now I have signed up to be a camp counselor. I sent in the application over a month ago. Only now, when camp is two weeks away and I'm hearing more details, am I dragging myself forward, forbidding myself from turning around. A whole week. With teenage girls. Meeting them. Leading them. Counseling. Setting rules. Laughing. Praying. Finding answers. All with little sleep and a rigorous schedule. This is something I know I can't do without God.

The feeling usually has good results. It drives me into praying a lot, so I end up depending utterly on God's strength and not on my own at all. When I am weak, then He is strong.

Amber climbed out of the pool and walked as quickly as she could back to the line for the high dive.

To God be all glory.

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