Every parent knows the feeling, that moment when you’ve told your child for the thousandth time, “If you jump, I’ll catch you!” They stand looking at you, knees knocking at the edge of the pool, eyes all aglitter at the thought of jumping, one hand hesitantly held out toward you in anticipation of the catch. Yet even then, there often remains that seed of doubt, that hint of fear, often shown in the one hand held up to their lips in comfort. And then, they’ll trust you, lean forward and leap into your arms.
And then there are those times they could benefit from a little nudge, a slight push in the right direction. Not that I’ve ever done that, of course. I’ve just heard it can be helpful sometimes.
As we grow older, there are still times we can benefit from a push. After confirmation, after the surrender of the farmhouse sink, after the waiting, I found myself standing on the edge of the pool, so to speak, unable to jump. I didn’t want to admit it, but I needed a nudge. I needed God to do something to coax me from the edge into the air, from the waiting into the going. And my Father was kind to His fearful child and gave me a push in the most unlikely of places: at the home-going celebration of a dear friend.
A church full of friends and family gathered on a Sunday evening in late September to celebrate the life of Pastor Jeff Rudd. As we sat together and remembered Jeff, we laughed and we cried. It was a wonderful night to remember and celebrate what God had done in and through Jeff’s life and ministry. It was a wonderful reminder how the gospel changes lives, and those lives go on to change lives, and those lives go on to change more lives.
Jeff’s friend and former pastor from New York challenged us to not just remember Jeff, but to follow his example. Don’t just nod in agreement; live it. Jeff had stepped out from the security of a life in local government into the unknown of full-time prison ministry, with a wife and four kids, and he did this faithfully for the last 15 years of his life. Each of us might not be called to full-time prison ministry, but we are called to be a light, to share the gospel, to go where God sends us carrying the love of Jesus Christ.
At one point, the pastor read from Ezekiel 47, an incredibly powerful image in Scripture. There we find Exekiel standing in the river that flows out from beneath the throne of God. As Zeke first steps into the water, it comes to his ankles. He goes a bit further and it’s up to his knees. Zeke goes farther, and now the water comes to his waist until finally, Ezekiel saw a river he couldn’t cross, water that was too deep for him to feel the bottom. If he went any further, he’d lose control and be taken wherever the river rolled.
Coming on the heels of our beach trip, the metaphor of stepping out into the waters, of stepping out to the place where your feet no longer find the bottom, of where the current is too strong for you to control on your own and being taken wherever the river goes was incredibly poignant for me. Sitting in that pew and hearing the Word of God, remembering the life of my dear brother-in-Christ in something I have a hard time communicating. I have been working on this blog for nearly two weeks, and I can’t adequately convey how powerful it was. All I know is the Holy Spirit spoke to me that night. He made it clear it was time to step out into the deep, time to trust the Lord beyond what I could see, to walk by faith and not by sight.
“But Lord,” I protested, “What am I supposed to do? Where do you want me to go?” You see, I wanted God to spell out the entire process for me, to show me the next three steps before I went out beyond the waist-deep water into the rushing current. I wanted the Lord to give me the entire picture, but He was only showing me the next step (Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path, right?). He was asking me to trust Him to go beyond where I was comfortable, to relinquish control, to step out into the deep water past what I was familiar with.
Like a parent swimming in the deep end, trying to convince their child to take that leap of faith and jump, my Father was holding out His more-than-able arms and telling me to jump.
I just needed a little push.