This is a picture of my friend Kelley and I, taken a few weeks ago on her front porch. Our paths crossed in the small town of Colorado where my husband was the youth pastor to her boys. She writes, she works, and she literally asks the best questions of anyone I’ve ever met–ever, ever. She’s an artist who speaks in images, and she’s a precious friend who has literally changed the course of my life. Some of our best reminders of Community, in fact, take place with she and her husband and some other friends, around a firepit, way past kid-bedtimes, deep into conversations that seep honesty and change and grace.
Kelley just attended the Storyline Conference with author Don Miller. I asked her to write about it, and the following is one of the stories that stirred her while there. While she has taken a break from consistent blog-writing in an effort to focus on her family and to work on other writing projects, you can check out her other past writings at her blog, The Spill. Promise you’ll be glad you did.
“We cannot help but tremble on the brink of surrender.”
Recently, I was at a conference in downtown Portland, Oregon with around 300 people where author, Episcopal priest, and speaker Ian Morgan Cron spoke briefly about his new book. “Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me: A Memoir… of Sorts” is a funny and painful account of his childhood longing for the love of an absent alcoholic father.
The whole audience was laughing at his animated story-telling when Ian’s tale took an unexpected turn and poked my soul. The ensuing dull ache I felt was the internal equivalent of the way my little sister used to press her boney finger into any of my exposed summertime bruises.
It was the story of a high-ledge jump.
Ian told of a nearby Connecticut quarry where his family of five would go swimming and jump off of low, medium, or high ledges down into deep water below. When Ian’s small eight year old son decided to conquer the highest forty foot ledge, Ian was forced to wrestle with his hand-wringing parental fears. As he waffled back and forth about allowing the high fall, his wife stepped in. He describes it this way:
Ann stared at me, “Ian, what’s really going on here?”
I tossed my dish towel on the counter.
“Look kids get hurt doing crap like this; that’s what’s going on here. Forty feet is a long way to fall,” I said.
Anne’s face softened, and she placed her hand on my cheek. “Ian, they’re not falling, they’re jumping.”*
“They’re not falling, they’re jumping.” Something so true about that statement feels like a poked-bruise ache beneath my surface. At age 45, in the throws of mid-life transition, I have been experiencing the disorientation of uncharted waters deep within my sense of self, community, and family.
Uncharted Deep Water. As my four sons grow older, the stakes of their life’s plummeting consequences get higher. It is tremendously challenging to surrender parental control in order that my children learn to jump, or fall, for themselves. And honestly, as a woman transitioning into an unfamiliar work world, in general my life is just plain klutzy and humbling. As I learn to surrender to this new season of life, I have been busy making my tumbling survival into an art form of sprawling falls. But, on good days, I am also able to see that this is all about perspective, and choice.
What is the difference between falling and jumping? In the case of a high water dive, to an untrained eye there isn’t a huge visible difference. Both entail a stepping off (either chosen or forced), a downward speed (either clumsy or poised), a point of submersion, and a resurfacing.
In both, the submersion is inevitable. But, I think the biggest difference between falling and jumping is about an internal perspective; how you choose to see it. Said another way, in the most difficult circumstances in life, there is a posture to embrace. How will you respond? If you are the hero leaping off the ledge in this story, which trait do you want to choose?
Jumping vs. Falling
Engagement vs. Passivity
Willing Surrender vs. Resignation
Faith vs. Doubt
Courage vs. Fear
Ian Cron described it this way: “There is a big difference in life between a jump and a fall. A jump is about courage and faith, something the world is in short supply of these days. A fall is, well, a fall.”*
That said, maybe you relate. Maybe you are in a life crux right now without a lot of obvious options and a host of unknowns ahead. If you are standing in a place where your surrender is necessary and eminent, let me speak this benediction . . . for you:
May God give you faith and courage in your own high-ledge circumstance.
May you step past fear in order to engage.
May you surrender and choose His Life abundant, no matter what.
May you jump.
-Kelley Leigh, The Spill
Check out more of Ian Morgan Cron at www.iancron.com
*Quoted from Ian Morgan Cron’s new book, “Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me: A Memoir of Sorts” Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011