Leap of Faith? It’s Easier to Talk about It!

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself.” 
– Soren Kierkegaard

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For most of us, life is often a fairly mundane rhythm of existence. Weeks go by before we notice how much time has actually elapsed. Now and then we have an unexpected visitor: Risk! Situations or moments come our way and we are faced with decisions and choices. One of these decisions is a choice for safety and comfort, to remain in what we know, and this is certainly not a ‘wrong’ choice, per se. When risk comes knocking, there is also another choice. A choice that propels us into uncharted waters and requires something of us. It invites us to step out into a place of not knowing, of instability, of following your heart … it requires a Leap of Faith.

I have often spoken about these places of peril over the last three decades. I spoke of them from a position of security, growth, and the idealism that accompanies youth and strength. But it is a different thing altogether to have Risk come calling for a cup of tea now that I am older. With age comes a sense of realism, a recognition that life does not read the “play fair” manual, and that the God of my youth was more like a shrine to my ideals than the God whose ways and thoughts are far above those of finite humanity. It is daunting, to say the least, to be invited to dust off the old Indiana Jones hat and take a leap of faith.

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The stirring started in my heart quite a few years ago. I remembered why I chose to follow the teachings of  Christ. It never has been a path about safety, comfort, and acquisition. It is not a path were our objective is to impress people, create bigger platforms, or seek greater influence. It is not a way of life that allows for the building of ethereal castles, where we reside in the safety of our self-assured orthodoxy with people who agree with us. Rather, it is a narrow path of peace, mercy and justice. It is a path that requires sacrifice if these are the values we choose to live by. It is an adventure that will often require us to step into the total unknown, and like that famous scene from “The Last Crusade”, hope there is a path that meets us, even when we can’t see one.

For most of us there will come a time when we are asked to take that leap. It is both a terrifying and liberating moment. Here are some of my reflections:

1. Fear will Disguise itself as Your Friend

Fear is what undergirds so much of our vulnerable existence. Religion can placate the angst with all sorts of promises and stern warnings, yet so much of religion is itself steeped in fear and superstition. The first step to freedom is recognising this. It is to understand that the notions of safety are not that realistic. The more we make our peace with this recognition the more readily we notice the many disguises of fear. No wonder the call of Christ includes the path of being willing to lose our life in order to find life.

2. Fear will Insist you Take the Path of Safety

I kissed Christian Fundamentalism goodbye quite a few years ago. It was a leap of faith. For someone who had bought into the austerity of these ideals, including the over-emphasised teaching that humans are depraved and that the heart is deceitful above all, I had to learn to listen to my heart again. I discovered my inner core was a joyful space, full of light, wonder and goodness. When we live in Spirit rhythm we begin to breathe again. Fear beckoned me to the safety of ‘absolute certainty’. Grace called me to take a leap of faith. I am so glad I took that leap.

3. You will Pay a Price – No Matter the Choice

When Risk comes calling we have to make decisions. The decisions and choices we make in these times have a price tag – all of them! Do we risk the sense of belonging and recognition we have acquired in our social tribe by stepping beyond the borders of their acceptability? Do we stay and live with the incongruity of living at odds with our deep held values? Do we risk all by following that still, small voice? Do we risk our joy by not? Make no mistake – choices have a price tag. All of them.

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4. Your Leap of Faith may End in a Spectacular Dive of Failure

Friend, where did we get the idea that risk is, well, risk free? You may take a leap and it may not end well, or at least, not like you thought it would … and that’s ok! We are humans, we risk, we leap, we triumph … except when we don’t. Failures are part of life. No, you are not a failure! You simply took a risk and maybe it didn’t turn out the way you hoped. But you still took a risk. Well done! And the people who are muttering after your spectacular mishap should simply be reminded that the spiritual beer gut they are parading from inactivity does absolutely nothing to convince you to take any remote notice of them.

5. Celebrate the Leap!

If you do decide to take that leap – then celebrate it. Celebrate it with tenacious joy and full belly laughs. Celebrate it with your kindred and adventure-loving friends. Remind everyone that we have one very short life to live and that regret is the saddest of all companions. Be open about the lessons you have learnt – the highs, the lows, the misery, the wonder.

A Leap of Faith sounds wonderful in theory. It is intoxicating to talk about it in front of crowds, cheering you on. It is a different thing altogether to make a decision as you stare into the menacing unknown. I will be the last person to judge you if you choose not to take that leap. For only you can make that decision and only you will face the consequences of your choice. However, if you do decide to go on this adventure, with all my heart, I wish you well. Maybe one day we will meet, chink glasses, tell our stories, and be grateful for the hell of a ride called life.

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What can we learn from a Hobbit?

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea …

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Our family is Tolkien possessed. My deep appreciation of the writing of this wonderful author has fortunately spilt over to my partner and
children. So when Peter Jackson put the Lord of the Rings series and The Hobbit to film, you guessed it, we watched it … over and over again … extended version, of course.

So, we have just finished watching The Hobbit … again. It is always interesting how these books and films speak to us in certain significant
seasons of our lives. As I watched Bilbo Baggins, the unlikely travelling companion of a company of dwarves and a wizard, take the hazardous journey to the Lonely Mountain, I took away some reflections on what we can learn from a hairy-footed Hobbit …

1. Always be ready for an Adventure

Bilbo is rather reluctant to leave the comfort of his home in the Shire to travel into the unknown. His conversation with Gandalf reveals his
apprehension:

Gandalf: “I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am
arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.”

Bilbo: “I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them …”

Gandalf: “You’ll have a tale or two to tell when you come back.”

Bilbo: “You can promise that I’ll come back?”

Gandalf: “No. And if you do, you will not be the same …” 
 
Bilbo overcame his fears to take part in a life-changing adventure. Many years later, he would warn a young Frodo about the hazardous nature of adventures:

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.
 
Bilbo would advise us to always keep our walking stick within reach – ready for an unexpected adventure.

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2. The Adventure is always bigger than You
 
Amidst a group of seasoned warrior dwarves, Gandalf’s choice of Bilbo to travel with the company was rather odd. Yet he managed to outsmart trolls, spiders, goblins, elves and dragons. He faced grave dangers. He was also carried on the wings of the eagles of Gwaihir to safety. Gandalf saw in this ordinary hobbit something else:

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo
Baggins? Perhaps, because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.”

Bilbo himself saw this as an adventure much bigger than himself.
Despite being desperately homesick for the Shire, he was on a quest:

“Look, I know you doubt me, I know you always have. And you’re right. I often think of Bag End. I miss my books. And my armchair. And my
garden. See, that’s where I belong. That’s home. That’s why I came back,
because you don’t have one. A home. It was taken from you. But I will help you take it back, if I can.
“ 

Bilbo would tell us that “even the smallest person can change the course of history”. The adventure we are called to is always bigger than ourselves.

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3. It simply isn’t an Adventure worth telling if there aren’t any Dragons.
 
“Well, thief! I smell you and I feel your air. I hear you breathe. Come along! Help yourself again, there is plenty and to spare!”
 
Smaug! The mountain had been left desolate, no one would venture near it, because amidst all the gold and glitter, lay a sleeping fire breather. How dull Bilbo’s tale would have been without this magnificent, cranky dragon.

Life was so pleasant in the Shire. A peaceful rhythm of life. Yet for Bilbo, just like for each of us, there may come moments when, often by no choice of our own, we are called from the Shire to go on an adventure and to face adversity. Staring into the face of our fear we wish it wasn’t so – but we are the people we are today because somewhere in our lives a dragon came calling.

The lesson we learn from a hobbit other than to “speak politely to enraged dragons”, or to “never laugh at live dragons”, is that our adventure is all the richer because of dragons.

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4. There is a bond with the Friends you make on an Adventure.
 
“Goodbye and good luck, wherever you fare,said Balin at last. “If ever you visit us again, when our halls are made fair once more, then the feast shall indeed be splendid.”
“If ever you are passing my way,” said Bilbo, “don’t wait to knock! Tea is at four; but any of you are welcome at any time!”
 
There is a ‘fellowship’ and an ‘unsaid knowing’ amongst friends who share in an Adventure. There are many dark and perilous journeys that we will take in our lifetime. How fortunate the person that gets to share it with friends. 

The lesson we learn from a hobbit is that to share our adventures with friends is “more than any Baggins deserves.”

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So, dear friend, take some time to reflect on the wisdom of hobbits. And just for you, the words of Thorin Oakenshield:

“There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

This post is dedicated to my travelling companion and adventure partner, who also happens to be the love of my life.

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