A few years ago, I went to Cancun on vacation with a few friends. I had so much fun hanging out by the beach and eating more than my own weight in chips and guacamole! (Side note: I am convinced guacamole will be served in Heaven. I mean, seriously, it is the Mexican manna from above. Thank you, Jesus, for guacamole!) While in Cancun, we were celebrating a friend’s 50th birthday, and she really wanted to do a few fun excursions. She arranged all the details and simply told us where and when to meet for our day of adventure.
Now, if you want me to get excited about anything just throw the word ‘ADVENTURE’ into the mix. I grew up on movies idolizing fictitious characters like Han Solo, Indiana Jones, and let’s not forget, Captain Eo. These guys lived adventure, and gave me the craving for the same.
They also may have instilled in me a false sense of skill and heroism: Like, I’m a pastor and preacher. That’s what God has called me to do, but I really could have been a secret agent or a ninja or some sort of intergalactic bounty hunter if I wanted to. Granted, I have absolutely no fighting skills, special training or basic coordination, but still, I know I could totally be an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
This is how my delusional brain works thanks to an overdeveloped imagination and an oversaturation of action movies.
Needless to say, I was more than ready for a day of adventure!
…That was until I found out part of the excursion would include snorkeling. I’m sorry, what?! I know I watched Jaws too many times as a kid, but sharks are real! Call me crazy, but I am of the belief that by swimming in the Caribbean I am trespassing in their backyard. I don’t want them to get confused and start thinking my arm is some sort of chew toy. No, way! Not going to happen to me! And that’s just sharks! Who knows what else is out there?! Is there a Caribbean Loch Ness monster? I don’t know. Do I want to find out while snorkeling with my friends in Cancun? Absolutely not.
This is the type of crazy that is going on in my head while we are driving boats out to the designated snorkeling area. I’m trying to play it cool, but on the inside I am freaking out! I don’t want to tell anyone that I am afraid of snorkeling, but I also don’t want to die. I’m getting quieter and quieter as we approach the snorkeling spot, planning and scheming and trying to come up with a reasonable excuse for why I will have to opt out of this ‘pleasant’ little excursion.
Sadly, my pride got the best of me, and I just couldn’t bring myself to admit my ridiculous cowardice. I reluctantly stepped out of the boat and into the clear aqua waters. My heart was racing, and I was on complete alert… I knew that if I felt anything brush up against my leg, it would be all over. I was going to lose it. I may not know karate, but I know crazy, and I will use it! Moby Dick, Jaws, even Nemo, better be afraid of my crazy!
What I didn’t know was that there was someone even more afraid than I was in our group. A small fish swam in front of her, and she simply said, “Nope. I’m out.” She turned around and swam back to the boat. Her husband joined her, and the two of them let us know that’s where they would wait for us.
The only reason I was even in the water was because I was trying to show face. As soon as this woman swam back, I thought, “This is my ticket out of this mess! Thank you, Jesus! You have rescued me once again!”
I didn’t say a word. I just turned and started quietly heading back to the boat. But my friend Holly just had to see me turn around! And because I don’t know how to keep my mouth shut, she already knew from some random previous conversation how I afraid I was of sharks and other large vicious sea creatures.
Being the good friend that she is, she swam right up to me, grabbed me by my life vest (yep, I was wearing a life vest) and spun me back to face her.
“Nope. YOU are snorkeling.”
I pointed to our friend sitting on the boat. “But she isn’t!”
“Yeah, but you are! You are not going to be afraid of snorkeling, okay. You are doing this.”
Staring at her, I reluctantly lowered my goggles from my forehead to my eyes. This was really going to happen. This was really happening. I was going to die; my friends and family were going to read online that a stupid young woman who listened to her over zealous friend got eaten alive by a great white while on excursion in Cancun.
BUT, as much as I didn’t want to admit it, she was right. I was about to miss out on something because of fear, and that’s no way to live. I nodded at her, and expected her to talk me through what was going to happen and perhaps offer me some sort of impassioned pep talk. I figured she was going to ease me into the whole thing, being the kind and gentle friend that she is.
Nope. Within five seconds of the nod, she had shoved my face down into the water! Seriously, just like that. No heads up (no pun intended.). No warning. Just a ‘shut up and enjoy it’ and my head is being held down in the water! That’s the kind of friends I roll with.
Once I got over the initial shock and terror of it all, I discovered the most breathtaking and vibrant colors I had ever seen! The fish and corral and landscape that lied beneath the surface were one of the most magical things I had ever laid eyes on. A whole new world opened up before me the moment I stopped fighting and simply surrendered to the adventure right in front of me.
The whole time I was snorkeling, reveling in this once in a lifetime experience, I just kept thinking, “I was so close to missing out on all of this!”
And isn’t that just like fear? It constantly causes us to miss out.
Ironically, Jesus’ most common command comes from the “fear-not” genre. The Gospels list some 125 different times Jesus telling us to ‘not be afraid’ or to ‘fear not’ or to ‘have courage’ or to ‘take heart’. The second most common command, to love God and neighbor, appears only eight times! Jesus certainly takes our fears seriously.
Why? Jesus knows that fear keeps us from experiencing the lives were created to live. No one lives a great life when limited by timidity, worry, and doubt.
I’ve been giving this some thought as of late, and at the risk of sounding a bit extreme, I think Christians ought to be the greatest risk-takers of all! After all, we are following Jesus and becoming more like Him, and if there was ever a risk-taker it was Jesus. If ever there was anyone who was not limited by fear, it was Jesus.
Think about it. The fear of man could not keep Him from teaching humanity truth. The fear of failure could not keep Him from performing miracle after miracle after miracle. The fear of darkness could not keep Him from casting out demons. The fear of pain could not keep Him from the sacrifice He made for us on the cross. The fear of death could not keep Him from resurrecting from the dead. And the fear of rejection could not keep Him from loving us even when we had no interest in loving Him. There is no fear in Jesus. It had no hold on Him. He is Perfect Love… and perfect love and fear cannot co-exist. Jesus was truly FEARLESS, and I believe the longer we follow Him the more FEARLESS we ought to become.
Ironically, Christians in our world today are portrayed as anything but fearless. Instead, we are seen as timid, mousy beings afraid of the big, bad, evil world.
That’s not who we were created to be! We were made to walk by faith. We have been empowered by the Spirit of God to lay hands on sick and see them recover, to cast out demons, to make disciples of all nations, to teach others about Jesus and to see lives transformed. We were meant to be beacons of hope shining bright for the world to see. We were to be more than conquerors in every situation and season of life. We were made to be culture-setters, history-makers, and people-rescuers. If we follow Jesus, then FEARLESS is who we are becoming. That is the destiny Heaven has afforded to us.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting we make dumb, irrational, impulsive decisions in the name of risk-taking. God may not have given us a spirit of fear, but He has given us a spirit of wisdom. Because both God’s Word and the Holy Spirit lead us, we have access to the direction and power we need to make decisions full of faith and purpose. And yet even with that assurance, we will still need to take some faith-calculated risks if we are ever going to live extraordinary lives and leave this world a better place than we found it.
So, my friends, when’s the last time YOU took a risk? Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to take a risk. Maybe, just maybe, Jesus is leading you from the safety of the boat to the uncertainty of the water. And maybe, just maybe, if you would surrender to His leading you might discover a vibrant, extraordinary life lying just below the surface…