What you’ve just witnessed is me jumping and clearing a 12-foot gap on my mountain bike.
Now, if that sounds big…it is! And if that seems a bit crazy…it is! And if you’re surprised that I both tried and succeeded at this big, crazy feat…you should be! Because I don’t normally try those sorts of things and I’m a little shocked, myself, that that’s really me in the video.
I like to go fast and push the limits, but there is a threshold to my adventures and it’s usually well short of 12-foot gap jumps.
The interesting thing about the daring feat in this video, however—and the reason I’m sharing all this with you—is the process it took for me to be mentally ready to take this risk. Like I said before, normally I don’t do things like this. If I were to walk up to this jump, look at its size, and ponder its difficulty, there’s no way I would ever try it. But the reason I felt comfortable and willing to tackle this obstacle was that there was build up to this jump that you don’t see in the video.
This 12-foot jump is actually the final (and largest) jump in a series of about 12 consecutive gap jumps in one short trail. You start small—with an easy jump that spans only about 2 feet—and then proceed to encounter 11 more gap jumps, each of greater length and difficulty than the last. But you’re building up speed and confidence throughout the run and by the time you reach the more-daring of jumps on the trail, you feel like they aren’t much harder than the jump you just cleared, so why not give the next one a try.
Seriously, I would have been freaked out to try that longest jump cold-turkey.
But when it was the climax of a series of obstacles strung together in a way that built courage and reassured confidence, it was suddenly no big deal. Of course I would hit that jump after everything I’ve already tried and succeeded at!
And I think that’s true, as well, of the great risks and adventures that we are called to as followers of Jesus.
Following Jesus is hard. He asks much of us and there is great risk of failure and pain. I’m not sure I can sell my possessions and give them to the poor. I’m not good at feeding the hungry, helping the poor, and caring for the outcast. I don’t always want to love my neighbor as myself. I really don’t like the idea of loving my enemies and praying for those who persecute me. And the ultimate challenge of Jesus is to lay down our lives and take up our crosses—which seems daunting and scary and way too hard—especially when we approach a challenge like this cold-turkey.
But what if we start small, with simple ‘yeses’ to the invitations of Jesus? What if we begin with random acts of kindness that require almost nothing of us—a dollar to someone on the corner or a smile to someone on the street. And what if we allow these simple ‘yeses’ to being the hands and feet of Jesus in our world to foster fearlessness for trying the next ministry adventure that God places in our path?
Let’s build up some confidence in small, simple, easy ways of following Jesus and see if it doesn’t bolster bravery in more difficult demands of discipleship. Let’s work our way up the ladder of love and service and see if we aren’t shocked, in the end, at what we are willing to, and capable of, accomplishing for the Lord if we say ‘yes’ to the little things and build up confidence as we travel the trail of life with Jesus.