Remember that scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Indy reaches the edge of a cliff? Actually, he ends up cliffhanging on plenty of occasions — but this time he’s following instructions that tell him to step out into nothingness in order to find the bridge.
He steps. The bridge materializes beneath his feet.
The beauty of this moment is not that it’s brilliant cinematic storytelling (it is) — but that this scene was key in a friend’s conversion experience. When she was presented with the Gospel shortly after watching this film, she couldn’t get that image out of her head, couldn’t lose the picture of Indy plunging out in midair, Indy discovering something solid under his boot soles.
So she jumped.
Cliff jumping didn’t come so easily to me. I knew that Jesus loved me and loved everyone else and approved whole-heartedly of Mennonite carry-in dinners at church before I could toddle — so following Him never felt like a risk to me. I never felt like I needed to make any dramatic step over the edge of a cliff. Committing my life to following in Jesus’ footsteps simply felt like part of a well-ordered existence.
And, oh, I’m fond of a carefully organized life. I’m the girl who pulls the suitcase out of the closet two weeks before the trip so I can begin placing the right clothes inside as soon as they leave the dryer. I’m the woman who knows the dollar tally of my grocery cart to the penny without using a calculator.
I’m the wife who has a day so carefully mentally planned that when my husband suggests an unplanned adventure to Walmart (my husband has the unique gift of turning anything into a heroic quest), I flip out until I can reassess, just like our GPS unit when we turn down an unanticipated road. “Recalculating,” she says in a voice of thinly veiled panic. “Recalulating … recalculating …”
Left to its own devices, my life would revolve around the comfort of a moderated schedule with measurable goals and tidy game plans. It’s not that I don’t want excitement. But let a girl pull up her Google calendar and schedule it in properly, all right?
Given my own trajectory, I would be deeply ingrained in a rut: controlling — and I suspect, unbearable to live with.
God, in His infinite mercy, has not allowed me a comfort zone. Instead, my warm, safe growing up years have been followed by a series of cliffs. They’re not as dramatic as Indy’s — but they come up fast, and I find the toes of my scuffed running shoes slamming up against the edge again and again.
The first cliff was a broken engagement that wrenched my life into an unexpected 180-degree turn. For the first time, I couldn’t rely on my own resources. I needed help. God used those months of freefall to bring mentors and strong fellowship into my life.
Then there was the cliff labeled grad school and MFA in Screenwriting. (What? For the Mennonite girl who grew up without a television?) There was the move-to-Chicago cliff, followed by the marry-the-man-you-haven’t-seen-in-four-years cliff, followed by the turn-down-a-good-job-offer-and-move-South-to-follow-your-dream cliff.
Ultimately, cliff jumping is about my heart. It’s impossible to be in an evangelical church for more than nine minutes before hearing that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” But the cliffs are about living it. They’re about prying me out of the comfort zone where everything works as a well-ordered machine and shoving me out into the unknown where God can work.
Crazy as it may seem, I’m learning to love those cliffs. Last year I was laid off from the dream writing job that moved us to Atlanta in the first place — but instead of panic, I found a flutter of excitement in my stomach. The breeze is refreshing out here on the edge, and the view—breathtaking.
In the intervening months, God has led me right along the brink. I see the jumping off point ahead — but it’s not chasing me back to my comfort zone. I’m eager for the plunge.