The view from the edge of the rock was daunting.
“Whoa!” Sawyer exclaimed.
I could see the fear in my son’s eyes, as his seven-year-old brain processed the sight.
We were the first to arrive to ledge of the mountainside. Sawyer was frozen as he saw the large cable disappearing down the rocky slope. This was the cable we would be using to help in our descent down the mountain. One of the many funny things about my son is his lack of filter. Whatever he’s thinking is usually immediately verbalized. This can be a good and bad quality. In this case, Sawyer’s response to this intimidating hike we were about to go on was interesting.
“Why do people do this?!” he asked.
"What do mean?” I responded.
“Why do people do scary things like this?”
I paused as I thought about his question.
“Well, it depends. Some people do scary things because they think it is fun. Some people do scary things because they have to. Then there are people who do scary things for a reason.”
“So… why are we doing this?” Sawyer asked in an urgent tone.
“Because it will be fun, and it will be an adventure.”
Sawyer was silent.
He was not buying my adventure hype.
“Listen, it’s good to do scary things sometimes,” I explained, “You just have to measure the amount of risk you are taking, and ask yourself if it’s worth it.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know how I told you we were going to swim to the falls once we get to the bottom?”
“Well, you have to ask yourself if swimming to the falls is worth going down this cable.”
Sawyer was reluctant, but as the others from the group began to join us at the edge, he seemed to warm up to the idea. There were more than a few kids with us, and so he must have found some strength in numbers.
|Some of our crew heading down the cable trail|
This past February I got the wonderful opportunity to hear author Bob Goff speak at a benefit dinner here in town. If you have ever read Bob’s book Love Does you know that Bob is crazy. Seriously, I am not sure that the man is normal. But he lives in such a way that makes me not want to be normal either.
In his speech he told a story of the time he went to Somalia (I believe) to get a school started. The country was plagued by violence and war, and Bob flew in anyways. After he exited his plane and got into an old beat up truck, Bob and the men transporting him with assault rifles in tow were met on the road by a car that opened fire on them. Bullets were peppering their car as Bob dove into the floor board and yelled, “Yikes!” A term his kids still tease him for saying. They made it out of the situation unscathed, but it left an obvious impression on Bob, who realized something quite profound. He shared with us that night that he believed that real life begins on the “edge of yikes.”
This thought resonated with me, because there have been a few moments in my life that I can relate. No, there were never any bullets hitting my car or high speed chases, but there were these times of stepping out just beyond the edge of my own control. Times where I walked down a path where I did not know where it would lead me. Times I jumped into a situation I had no means to get out of. And I can say indefinitely that each time my adrenaline began to pulse, my fear began to rise, and I felt more alive than ever before.
I am not talking about recklessness. I am not condoning skirting responsibilities and throwing all caution into the wind. I am talking about doing something scary because you calculated the risk, but you know the outcome will be worth it. You may not know exactly where you are going, or how you’re going to get there, but you know it is something you should do.
Author and speaker, John Acuff, explained it like this:
“Many of the adventures you will go on will not make sense to other people because the outcome is unknown. But journeys where the outcome is already known are not adventures, they’re errands. And you were created to do more than run errands.”
I understand Sawyer’s fear, because I am a fearful person myself. I am an errand-runner by nature, and the furthest person you’ll ever meet from being a risk-taker. But the older I get, the more I find the value in taking a risk. I have come to understand that most things worth doing are going to make you risk something. So, if you are living comfortably in all aspects of your life, you are more than likely not living at all. Life, at it’s fullest, pushes us to grow beyond the confines of our daily grind; beyond the mediocrity of a life filled with flipping channels and scrolling Facebook. The adventure begins the moment you decide you are going to do something scary.
My parents are in love with Honduras. Ever since I was a boy my Dad and Mom would spend a week of their summer doing mission work with The Good Samaritian Baptist Mission down in Central America. Over time my wife has visited, as well as myself, and other family members. My Dad even was able to raise enough money for my Mom’s fiftieth birthday to build a feeding kitchen in El Perico, Honduras! It has been amazing to see my parents’ putting action to their beliefs, as they have helped sponsor children, feed them, clothe them, as well as reach them with the Gospel.
Recently my dad has begun to raise money and awareness for the radio station that the mission owns and operates. He and Mom spend almost every Sunday at a different church advocating for the people of Honduras. This naturally bleeds over into every part of Dad’s life, including work. Lately, he has been trying to recruit engineers and electricians from work to go with him on his next trip to Honduras to help repair and install radio towers. One of the guys told me the other day he was all for going to help until he heard that Honduras has the highest homicide rate of any country in the world.
“I just don’t know if I am up for putting myself in harm’s way,” he said.
“Oh, it’s not that bad,” I reassured him, “I’ve been there and had no problem.”
“Yeah… I still just don’t know.”
“It’s for a good cause,” I reminded him.
But what I really wanted to say was, “I guess you need to calculate the risk and ask yourself if it will be worth it for what you are doing.”
If you are truly passionate about something, your actions will prove it. If you really want something worth having you will take the risk. It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to look over the edge and take a step back to think about it. Just do not let fear stop you from accomplishing something great. Because that is was fear does best. It robs us of our opportunities. It rips away the adventure from our lives. It deceives us into believing that life is best lived on the sidelines instead of in the game. Fear will always tell you that the risk is not worth it.
So you and I have a choice: We can lie down at the ledge and succumb to those fears. We can be errand-runners. Or we can take a step of faith. We can push past the fear and take the chance. We can choose to do something scary.
Sawyer made it to the bottom of the cable trail without a problem. He informed me that it wasn’t nearly as scary as it looked from the top. I told him that was usually the case. Then I made good on my promise.
The mountain water was ice cold, and I decided to finally just take the plunge. I came up from the water with an exhilarant breath that burned in my chest. We found a couple of logs that had washed up on the shore, and pushed them into the deep water. And so my daughter, JulieAnna, her friend, Ali, Sawyer, and I all wrapped our arms around the logs and paddled upstream to reach the falls.
The sun was setting behind the mountain just over the Caney Creek Falls. As we neared the pounding water, a mist rose in the air, and the water became choppy and dark. Ali and Sawyer were scared. I told them to brace their selves because we were heading under the falls. There was much screaming and I was watching to make sure everybody had a grip on the log. The water pounded on top of our heads, as we pushed through to the other side. Just past the falling water was a ledge big enough to stand on. We jumped off the log and stood with our arms in the air; screaming in victory. We had made it!
A sense of accomplishment and excitement rose with the mist. I could see it all over Sawyer, who was jumping and screaming in jubilation.
I leaned over and yelled over the roar of the falls, “So, was it worth it?!”
“Oh yeah!” he screamed back.
I put my arms around my children and soaked in the beautiful moment.
“Sawyer,” I yelled.
“What?” he shouted back.
“This is why you do scary things!”