Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Stepping off the edge

I've got something on my mind.

Oh, hello, God.

Sorry about that. It's just that I have something on my mind.  I'm preoccupied.

I think something has happened but it might turn out not to have happened at all and it would be helpful if you would clarify things, please, because I keep turning it over in my mind.

A couple of weeks ago I listened to a sermon which used the image of a person jumping off a diving board to illustrate the idea of stepping out in faith.

A diving board.  The image was that I am standing on a diving board, one of those springy ones, and my toes are curling around the edge, and I'm looking down, and my arms are out to balance me, but it seems a long way to the water and I'm getting more and more nervous. I stand there, looking down, wondering how far there is to drop before I hit the water, and thinking about jumping.

I'm considering it; shall I? Thinking 'Yes, I will...' but still too scared to jump.

Perhaps you have so much more for me than I am experiencing. Maybe I need to jump.  Just jump. Stop thinking, stop weighing it up, stop contemplating the pros and cons. Dive in. Immerse myself. Jump in so that you envelop me, cover me. Your waters will meet over my head.

I could swim in you. You would surround me. You would soak me. You would hold me up.

But...isn't there always a but? So often I teeter on the edge for a while and then back away. It's unknown. I don't know how deep it is, or how cold it is. It's too far down. It's too scary. Too costly, perhaps.

Too much for me. I reverse along the board and back to safety.

I don't jump.

I sat in church and soaked up the sermon. I liked the image. I swim a lot (well, I did when I was on my last get-in-shape crusade and I know that there's another one coming) and at the end of the pool are three diving boards at different heights. When I was younger I used them all, and my favourite was the middle springboard.  With a bounce, bounce, bounce I launched myself into the water full of joy. These days I am much more sedate and I use the steps to lower myself gingerly into the water, struggling for a shred of dignity, but I remember those joyful days. In my head I can still dive in from the top one. The spirit is willing...

It worked for me, this image. A diving board - yes. Immersed in my God - yes! We sang the last songs and I went home.

Can't say that I thought about it much more.

In the middle of that night, I had a dream. Vivid and memorable, if brief. I was standing on a diving board. A springboard, just like the one in the sermon.

I stood on the diving board, toes curled around the edge. I looked down. It seemed a long way.

Then, I'm not sure what happened next; I don't know if I jumped or lost my balance, but I was falling. I was terrified and I woke myself up with a scream.

Sat up in bed and reached for the lamp, heart pounding. I actually screamed. I think the sound was more like one of those strangled sort of noises that you make in your sleep but in the dream it was a bloodcurdling scream.

So, Father, what does that mean? Does it mean something, because I can't get it out of my head. In church I liked the idea of jumping off the board into your love. I wanted to be immersed in you. I wanted to swim in your love and experience you in every way that you want me to. It seems as if in my dream I had different ideas.

I'm no expert on dream interpretation and I don't know anyone who is. It just seems like a strange co-incidence that I had this dream straight after the sermon on being unafraid to dive in. To commit oneself wholeheartedly.  Are you showing me that I haven't yet dived in, even if I think that I have?  Are you telling me that I am hesitating to take that final step with something? Are you telling me to get a grip because it's inevitable? Or are you just asking me what I'm afraid of?

I'm asking myself that as well.

Or - and this is a distinct possibility because I have a fertile imagination and a tendency to over-think - did I have a dream about diving boards and it turned into one of those ever-so-common falling dreams that are caused by chemicals in the brain and that's all there is to it?

I don't know. What I do know is that I do want to dive in. I want to bounce, bounce, bounce and then hurl myself headlong into you. I want to feel the cool water close over my head and I want to luxuriate in the depths of you. I want to swim and dive and float and explore everything that there is to explore. If I am teetering on the edge then I don't know why, because I trust you. I know you're there to catch me. I know that you won't magically vanish the moment I step off the edge. I know you're deep enough and wide enough and long enough to encompass me completely.

Maybe I'm a bit scared. A bit. With every step in my life that I get closer to you there are more challenges.  Life gets a bit harder; a bit more scary. I step out in faith and I find that I'm in unfamiliar surroundings. I can only see the step I'm on and yet you're asking me to put one foot in front of the other even though I don't know where that foot will land. What if the ground falls away? What if it's uneven and rocky? What if I sink?

I know that you are right next to me and yet I hesitate. I know that if I stick my head above the parapet in the Christian life I might get shot at. Oh, Father, give me more faith. More confidence. Show me how to take what I know to be true and stand on it. You're right there, smiling, beckoning, telling me it's ok to jump. Come on in! The Water's lovely.

So I was on the diving board and I was scared. I don't want to live my life like that. I want to be bold and secure and confident. I want to rise to the occasion. If you want me to step off, I don't want to hang back.

Father, I want to dive and swim in your love and I want to emerge from the water soaked in you. I want to experience all that you have for me in my life even if it involves stepping off into the unknown. I believe that you have brought me so far and you're not about to abandon me now.

I don't know if this was just a trivial dream, but it's certainly made me think. Have I really abandoned all that I am to you? Or am I holding back?

Do I run to the end of the board and jump into the air confident in your presence beneath to catch me or do I hesitate and falter?
Am I fully committed?
Am I afraid of making too big a splash? Attracting attention? Maybe I am too self conscious to hurl myself off the board with gusto.

Lord, thank you that you are big enough and strong enough to catch me when I jump and even when I trip and fall. Thankyou that your life-giving waters are always deep enough for me. You never run dry. You have depths that I cannot imagine.

Give me courage to jump today and to keep on jumping each day, each challenge - even when the boards get higher and higher and the low ground seems much safer. Increase my faith and take away my hesitation.

I remember the very first time I stepped off the top board at the swimming pool. I stood right on the edge, just as I did in my dream. I could feel the edge of the board under my toes. It seemed very high indeed, but I was determined. I'd been up there and climbed back down the steps more times than I could count, but this time was going to be my time. I didn't look down. I knew that the water was just where it had been last time I was swimming in it.

I focused on the clock at the far end of the pool and, eyes fixed on that clock I stepped off the edge.

I am focused. This time my eyes are fixed on you.

I'm going to jump.










3 comments:

  1. Amen! Hallelujah! What a wonderful post :-)
    Think I have just jumped off a pretty high board here...and it's scary and exhilarating and my heart is pounding and stomach wobbly...but it's good :-)
    Bless you my friend x

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  2. Oh, Helen, I love this post, and it fits right in with all I am studying for our Ladies' Gathering. May I quote you?

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  3. Thankyou both of you.
    Em - when the time is right you're going to make a big splash!
    Ginger - I'd be honoured. Thankyou.

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