Following Jesus is a lot like taking my son to a waterslide park.
You might be like my son. He is terrified of big roller coasters and intense looking rides. Of course he is only 7-years-old, but more than his age, his personal make-up plays a lot into it his natural lack of courage. Part of it is just who he is. Take my three year old daughter – for her, the more thrilling the better. Not Caleb. But that is what made this weekend all the more interesting.
My company rented out an entire water ride park for a company celebration. I am sure you have seen one of these parks and have probably even been to one. I usually see them as I zip by on the freeway. Kids being flung out of a water shoot 15-feet in the air, groups of four spinning out of control in a giant toilet bowl thingy, idiots going mach-one down a 70-degree decline while their back is being shredded like cheese on a cheese grater. But now instead of seeing these as we drive by, we are standing face-to-face with these water behemoths as they tower above us, taunting.
Intimidated, we decided the wave pool and endless river were our water companions of choice. After a few hours I asked Caleb if he wanted to go on a few waterslides. He adamantly declined. But he saw the little kiddy slides (about 15 feet in length) and thought those were just perfect. After going to the 2-second slides a few times I tried to reason with him again and verbally pull out courage in him. “Caleb, those slides (pointing to the towers above) are just like this one but they last longer.” He was not buying it. “Caleb, trust me, you’ll have a blast…they even give you inner tubes to go down on. Do you trust me?” I guess not. So we went around the endless (boring) river a few more times.
Knowing from experience that once Caleb rose above his fear and drew deep from that inner reservoir of courage that he would have a time of his life, I decided I would go down and show him that it was OK. (Alright, I was also bored out of my mind and needing some adventure). I told him I was going to go down the purple slide, I would come out of this pool here, and for him to wait for me. I grabbed a tube, walked briskly up the 73 flights of stairs (well, not quite, but it sure felt like it) and went down the purple waterslide. I hit the pool at the end of the slide, stood up and saw Caleb grinning from ear-to-ear. “Dad, I want to go on that one!”
So we both grabbed a tube and went down the “Twin Terrors” together, thoroughly enjoying ourselves. But each time we went up the flights of stairs we passed another slide called “Dark Hole”. I thought that sounded like fun – Caleb, not so much. So we split up once more and he saw me come out of the Hole alive, well, and smiling. He went on it with me immediately. Now that was his new favorite ride.
The next time we ventured out into a new ride he no longer needed me to pioneer the way first, but drew upon his courage he gained by my previous example and his memories of applied trust and fun with dad. We were able to experience new adventures together. My words did not instill courage in him. My example did.
I think it is the same with me. I think this is one primary reason why Jesus came. The life and example he led here on earth gives me the courage to know that I too can trust the Father and follow him into unknown adventures. His death gives me the courage to know that even if I die, I live. In other words, his courage lived-out empowers me to live courageously. I can go down the big scary rides and be OK. I can slide side-by-side with him and be OK.
And then something really cool happens. I begin trusting him beyond just his example he left. I begin trusting him because I have memories of other journeys with him, of past personal faithfulness he has proven to me time and time again. And then he and I get to experience brand new adventures for the first time together. We get to do something new, and afterwards – heck, even during – we look at each other, smile from ear to ear and say, “That was the best one yet!!”
That is, until the next adventure together . . .