When I was 25 years old, I took a life-changing Outward Bound trip in North Carolina. Never much of an outdoors person, this trip was an intentional challenge. I stretched … and loved the backpacking, the white-water canoeing, even the rock-climbing. But when it came time to for the ropes course, I was invited into a completely different scale of challenge! Up, up, up we went, all tethered in, to about 60 feet off the ground (or was it 6,000?). Then we were supposed to jump off and swing like a human pendulum until we slowed down and could be untethered. It was at that moment, on that ledge, that I learned that free-falling is one of my greatest fears. I knew that I’d died falling in another life, and was confident that stepping off that ledge would end my current life right then and there. Sheer terror coursed through me, closely accompanied by the shame of not being able to ‘just jump’ as I’d seen my companions easily do. My fellow outward bounders were patient and encouraging, so that, finally, forty-five minutes later (really!), in a ‘leap of faith’, I finally jumped … and swung safely, as everyone else had, back to the ground.
On my desk is the photo of the ‘leaping monkey’ I’ve shown from time to time at the Fellowship. Reflecting upon this experience at Outward Bound, I’ve come to realize this monkey is my muse, reminding me that many of my fears are most likely irrational, like the certitude I felt about dying as I was on that ledge in North Carolina over 25 years ago. How often do I still stay unconsciously stuck on a ledge that limits my freedom? How often does my fear or worry about embarrassment, stop me from stepping forward and speaking my truth? From being an ally in the work of justice? From sharing my own vulnerabilities? From dreaming big?
Courage, we are told, isn’t the absence of fear, but acting in spite of fear. Every time we act courageously, we are taking leaps of faith, trusting in something larger than our mind’s doomsday imagination.
Our calling is to bring love, reason, compassion and justice into our ailing world. In these fearful times, let us en-courage one another. Let us remind one another, in word and deed, that we can live our values ‘out loud’, that we can dream bigger than we ever have before, can build a world of peace, love and justice. Let us help one another take those leaps of faith that bring us all onto more solid ground.