24 years ago we were at a water park in southern Florida. My son John-Andrew was 3 at the time, and he was a cute, pudgy little thing. He couldn’t swim, and so the two of us would would go into the different pool areas together and I would swim with him. We would dunk down, splash water and play together, and it was a lot of fun.
In the distance we could see these cliffs that you could actually jump off of into another pool, and so I said “hey buddy, let’s go check that out!” We went over to that area and I asked him if he wanted to jump off the cliff with me.
“Let’s do it!” He said.
However, when we got to the top of the cliff, the lifeguard told us that we couldn’t jump off together. That had been my plan – we would jump, I’d hold him and pull him up out of the water right away…but now that was out of the question.
So I turned to John-Andrew and said “ok, we can still do this, but you have to practice holding your breath. Can you hold your breath? Hold your breath for 5 seconds!”
I counted off those 5 seconds and he held his breath.
“Good job, you’ve got it! Okay, I’m going to jump first. You come after me and then I’ll come and get you. Sound like a plan?”
“Okay, it’s a plan!”
So I stepped to the edge of the cliff, and it wasn’t that high, only about 8 to 10 feet…but it was still 8 to 10 feet. I leapt off and made lots of noise, plunged into the water and then popped right back up and said “look, this is fun!”
John-Andrew came up and peeked over the edge. His eyes got really big, he clenched his fists, started to shake and his little belly started to bobble. He was terrified. (Also, he was really cute.)
So I said “come on, John-Andrew, you can do this buddy!”
While he continued to stand there, the lifeguard yelled that I needed to be further back. I swam a little bit further away and then called out “come on, John-Andrew, I know you can do it!”
And so he got up the gumption, held his breath and jumped down into the water. I swam as fast as I could and pulled him right up, and as soon as he came up, he took a big gulp of air and laughed. He was thrilled.
“You did so great!” I exclaimed. “We should go tell mom!” And then I thought maybe shouldn’t go tell mom. She probably wouldn’t have been too happy with me.
It was really a fun experience that we had together, but the reason I bring it up is because I realized that it’s a great metaphor for the act of Faith that we need to make in God.
The word “faith” in the New Testament is Greek word “pisteuo” and it doesn’t just mean to believe in God: beyond that it means to trust God and to entrust oneself to God.
When John-Andrew was standing up there on the cliff, he believed that I existed. He knew that I was around, even if he couldn’t see me right away. But then he had to trust me. Was I going to come get him? That goes off of his past experiences: am I a trustworthy father? Obviously, he thought that I was trustworthy.
But then there’s that moment right before the leap of faith where he has to entrust himself in real time and say “I trust that he is going to catch me.” Then he leaps.
That’s the Faith that we’re called to. If you just follow the rules, the rules say that you jump by yourself. If you just follow the rules, it’s really easy to sink…because our Faith isn’t just about rules. Our Faith is about rules and relationship…and more so about the relationship.
The relationship is that God jumped first and God promises that He’s going to catch us, to take care of us. He’s going to take care of me.
When it comes to this Faith that I need to pass on to my children, and that I need to live as well, I need to teach them that God is trustworthy. We can abandon ourselves and jump off the cliff, so to speak, because we can trust our Father. Especially at the point when we feel like we’re gonna die, if we’re willing to abandon everything, that’s when our Faith brings us the most joy and our Father in Heaven rejoices in us.