My parents tell of the story of how I, at age five, climbed up a ladder and fearlessly jumped off a high diving board. I remember that moment—the smell of chlorine and sunscreen, the blue water beneath me, the Texas summer heat radiating off the board.
What I sometimes don’t remember as a grown-up is how it feels to be that brave, to stand at the edge of a dream or opportunity and have the guts to just go for it, let my feet leave what’s solid, let my fingers touch the sky.
Mark and I had a conversation about this recently. I’d been dreaming of doing something for years. I’d tip-toe up to the edge of it then back away slowly. “Not now,” I’d tell myself, “Tomorrow. Today it’s too scary.” Then I’d research more, rereading things I already knew just to make myself feel more certain. But it never really worked.
I asked Mark, “How sure do I need to be that I can do this before I start?” He’s a wise and responsible person so I expected him to say, “One hundred percent, of course.” But instead he said, “Seventy-five percent.”
For whatever reason, I took his answer seriously. I climbed the diving board of this dream again and jumped right off the end of it. It wasn’t perfect but it was good enough as a start. And because I’m actually doing it rather than just dreaming about it, I’m getting better at it every day.
After this experience, I started wondering why so many of us believe we need to be one hundred percent sure to move forward with something. One reason might be thinking God is a micromanager and His will is a very tiny, mysterious target we must figure out how to hit or there will be catastrophic consequences.
But Jesus told a parable about a boss going away on a trip and leaving his workers in charge. When the boss comes back, he asks each worker what they did with what was entrusted to them. To the one who invested what he was given, took risks, jumped off the diving board, the boss says, “Well done.” Grace is not a tiny target; it’s an endless pool.
Here’s what that parable made me realize: God is in control and we are in charge. Saying we have to be 100% sure about something can be a way of avoiding the fear that comes with taking responsibility for our lives.
When we make a decision about something that matters to us, we will always experience fear. It’s how we’re wired as humans. Fear is our brains way of informing us, “Something important is at stake here.” We can try to avoid fear by telling ourselves we need to be 100% sure about what we’re doing. But as long as we care about what we’re doing or how it turns out, our fear will never go away completely. The opposite of fear isn’t certainty; it’s apathy.
I’m not advocating for impulsivity. I believe in intentionality. This is about the times when fear is trying to hold us back from all God has for us, when we’ve known for a long time deep down what we want to do. When we’re standing at the edge of the same diving board for the one hundredth time, toes curled around the edge, endless horizon in front of us. As poet Erin Hanson said…
“There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”
Cheering You On,
Life Coaching: Are you an introvert pursuing a God-sized Dream? I’m taking on a very small amount of life coaching clients. Find out more here.
Podcast: This week’s More than Small Talk is “Do That New Thing.” We talk about embracing the new, being empowered, and moving forward. (And laugh a lot about my awkward/amazing goat yoga experience.)
Video: Suzie, Jennifer, and I also recorded a video for you about this question, “What does it look like to be fierce-hearted when your heart feels uncertain?” You can watch the video by joining the More than Small Talk Facebook group.
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