That's me jumping off a 25-foot rock into about 6 feet of water. The jump lasted just a few seconds and was really fun, but the process of getting to the jump was a lot longer and not nearly as fun.
Our final two days in the Dominican Republic were spent in a place called Jarabacoa, which is in the mountains. We went there to reflect on our experiences of the past week, listen for God's voice leading us into our next steps and figure out how to take what we've seen, tasted, smelled and felt back home.
One of the best parts of those two days in Jarabacoa was a trip to a waterfall. We walked for about 5 minutes down a trail and arrived at a 50 or 60-foot waterfall. The water below was cool, but very refreshing and not too deep. We swam in and out of the waterfall for a while. Several of us were hoping we could climb the rocks on one side of the falls so that we could jump off into a deeper area. Finally, one of our students found a way to the top of a 25-foot rock that was above a safe place to jump from.
The climb up to that rock appeared difficult, even for the most fit members of our team. I watched students climb, cheered them on and celebrated with them after they jumped. Inside, I wanted to climb the rock and jump into the water but I didn't think I would be able to do it. I was very unsure of my ability to climb. I figured I would be able to jump pretty easily if I could get to the top, I just didn't think I could get up there. Also, I didn't want to attempt it and fail, having to retreat down the rock, or worse, fall and injure myself.
As I watched several students climb and jump I finally decided that I had to at least give it a try. I was still hesitant as I looked at the face of the rock and didn't see many places to get a good grip. But as I began to climb, it got easier and easier. In fact, the spot where most people were getting stuck ended up being pretty easy for me. Soon I found myself at the top and staring down a 25-foot jump to the water.
Again I hesitated, worrying about my safety and my ability to push off far enough so I didn't hit any rocks on the way down. But then someone behind me yelled, "You're a warrior!" (which will be the subject of another blog post soon) and I knew I just had to jump. Finally, my feet left the rock and it was an amazing feeling. Hitting the water was incredible and coming up out of it was even better. I did it!
One day later, on the way home, God showed me how that experience at the waterfall was a good picture of my week in the Dominican Republic.
I have always been good at supporting and encouraging people. I naturally gravitate to the behind-the-scenes stuff (watching others climb, cheering them on and celebrating with them). Early in the week I found myself doing that again. I encouraged, took pictures, prayed for and celebrated with our team. None of that stuff is bad, but sometimes it is only a part of what God wants from me.
During our first church service in Guanabano, I was asked if I was ready to share something from the stage. I flinched. In fact, I shrank back from the opportunity and said I wasn't ready (doubting my ability to climb, worrying about failure).
As the week went on I continued to do my behind-the-scenes stuff, but I kept feeling God's gentle nudge toward things that are uncomfortable for me. I even found myself desiring those things but still unsure of my ability (wanting to jump from the rock but unsure of climbing).
Finally, Sunday morning was my time to do something really uncomfortable - preach in a church service! Yikes! I don't know why but public speaking is one of my biggest fears. However, I knew I had to do it (finally deciding to at least try climbing the rock).
So I got up on the stage and was a little nervous at first (looking for footholds on the rock) but then I prayed and just started speaking (climbing). God gave me an incredible sense of calm and comfort (climbing easily, even through the tough spots).
Toward the end of my message I felt like God wanted me to remind the people of His love for them and the free gift of salvation that He offers (jump from the rock). Here's where the analogy breaks down because I didn't hesitate at all. I obeyed and jumped! I ended the message with a prayer of blessing for my new friends in Guanabano and left the stage feeling like I did OK.
Later in the day someone told me that a woman came forward after the service was over and felt challenged by my message to receive Jesus as her savior! I didn't get to pray for her but knowing that God used my obedience to draw someone to Himself was way better than jumping off a 25-foot rock into the water.
There are many lessons in these experiences for me, but I think the most important are obedience, boldness, faith and love. Without these things, our efforts are worthless. Our Heavenly Father wants to use us, we just have to let Him do it!