Life comes at us in waves. Sometimes the surge ripples gently by. Other times it can pound the daylights out of us and leave us gasping for breath. How do we respond when that happens?
I live with my family in Colorado so my kids are more familiar with soaring mountains and sweeping plains than surge and swirl of ocean surf. But several months ago, while visiting my parents in Nevada, we decided to hop across California and see the beach.
Two Different Reactions to Risk
When we arrived, my three littles—Princess, Peanut, and Jack—reacted very differently to the vastness of the water and the power of the waves.
The girls, Princess and Peanut, squealed in delight and ran down the sand. Unafraid, they jumped into the waves, then screamed and exited with surprise at the cold. Even so, their faces filled with mirth. For the next hour they giggled and played in the sand and surf.
My son, Jack, approached the ocean with more caution. As he studied the scene, he held my hand and kept quiet. He could see the intensity of the water, felt the strength of the tide as wave after wave crested his feet and then threatened to pull him back out into its depths.
For the longest time, he simply stood there, watching rather than playing. I could see the conflict within, his desire to play warring with his fear of danger.
It’s a valid battle because the ocean is dangerous. It can’t be managed or controlled. And sometimes, even though you ache for it to be otherwise, it takes a person under. But the ocean is also a place of adventure and thrill, of deep belly laughter and unforgettable memories. But only for those who dare to dive in.
When the Waves Roll, Do We Stand Back or Jump in?
This is the choice you and I face each day. When the uncertainties of life splash and surge, we want to protect ourselves. We don’t even have to think about it. It’s almost like a reflex or an instinct. But real life is lived in the swells. “Staying out” is just another way of saying “missing out.”
I’m not saying it’s easy. Believe me. I’ve faced crushing waves and still face them.
As I explain in my new book, Undone, four years ago I was diagnosed with cancer. Then, in the midst of recovery I not only launched a new and busy career, but my husband and I also opened our hearts to three children who needed a Mommy and Daddy more than almost anything in the world.
There was so much change, uncertainty, and risk in these circumstances my reflex for self-protection was twitching and jerking like crazy. But my instinct was wrong. Instead of holding back, as the waves rolled in, I needed to dive. And I did.
3 Lessons from Letting Go and Taking the Jump
It was the most ungainly swan dive imaginable, but my clumsy lunge of faith taught me a thousand things about love, mercy, and more. Here are just three of the lessons I learned about letting go and taking the leap in the face of risk and uncertainty.
- Gratitude liberates. With the cancer diagnosis life seemed so fleeting, I remember trying to grab hold of it. To memories. Experiences. Anything. It was like trying to hoard joy. It didn’t work.
It reminded me of manna and the Israelites. God’s provision would last for one day and only one day. When I accepted that and became grateful for the moment—even the tough ones—I started feeling joy again.
- Forgiveness heals. Against the enormity of life’s tidal waves, our petty gripes and grievances can seem so small. But we hold onto them, don’t we? I did, right up until God showed me that the only person suffering was me. It’s like keeping a vial poison topped up in my own heart.
On the eve of my surgery he showed me the real danger I was facing. I was trying to keep myself from getting hurt and was hurting myself in the process. It was time to dive in, despite the danger. A day before my surgery I pulled out my scalpel and made phone calls, wrote emails, initiated difficult conversations, and found healing.
- Provision awaits. When the phone call came about our Princess, Peanut, and Jack, my husband I were only a few years away from an empty nest—and really looking forward to it. We’d been through a lot as a family, and it was time to trade in the oversized SUV and get something small and sleek. But then the phone rang.
Could we even do it? Emotionally, financially, physically? The answer was yes. But we didn’t know until we were midair in the jump. I find that’s true more often than not. We don’t need the provision if we’re just standing around watching the waves. The answers, resources, and comfort come once there’s some air between our toes and the ground.
As we wrestle with doubts, fears, and uncertain outcomes, do we retreat or dive? Merely observe or really live? Yes, it’s dangerous. It might not go well. But our hope isn’t in the odds.
It’s in a God who heals all things sick. Who redeems all things lost. Who brings orphans together in unusual families. And who weaves all frail and broken things into a glorious overall whole. A story. His story.
And the best news of all? When we reach the final page, regardless of what happens between now and then, hope wins. So go ahead. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. Dive.