April 11, 2016

Let Go - Verse of the Week

It was a sunny day. Summer was drawing to a close. As the sun scorched down on my perfectly thought-through outfit choice, I found my 21 year old self outside, with 5 other adults, and in charge of 120+ 5 and 6 year olds. It was my first day as a teacher.

We were out at recess and this particular day, I was the teacher designated to watch out for all the little ones on the monkey bars. This job would also be known by many of you as "low man on the totem pole shift".  This happened to be the piece of equipment where the most band-aids were necessary and the most "keep you hands to yourself," and "stop pushing" comments were spoken.

While I stood at the monkey bars, I watched students anxiously wait their turn as they stood in a line 20-30 kids long. Fiver year old after five year old would climb the three rung ladder to lay hold of that first monkey bar. Then, without fail there was a pause. A pause of anticipation and fear. A pause of "can I really do this?" Some would climb back down in defeat and fear while others would push of the ladder into the adventure.

This week's verse reminds me a lot of those sweet little ones on the monkey bars. We see the adventure  others are having as they "swing" through life on the monkey bars of purpose and calling with Jesus. So, we get in line with anticipation and excitement. Then, it is our turn to take a swing. We stand on the top rung of the ladder. We place of nervously sweat palms around the first monkey bar ready to swing, but we can't decide if we will push off the ladder into the unknown adventure ahead or rather if the security and predictability of what we already know {:our comfort zone:} is a better option.

The tension between pushing out into what could be great with uncertainty and staying where we are where everything is completely certain.

I find myself in that place quite often these days. But there are a few lesson's I learned from my recess duty days of monkey bars that apply quit perfectly to this verse.

1) If You Decide to Swing, He Will Hold You

I never forced one of my students to swing, but if they decided they were committing to the monkey bar path ahead only to realize they were not actually strong enough to do so, I would wrap my arms around their waist and bear the majority of their weight so they could go the distance.

How true is this of the very nature of Jesus? He invites us, never forces us, into adventures that lie ahead. The invitation to allow our feet to leave the security of what we have already seen and know and to swing into the great unknown. Often, those adventures require more of us than we have to give. Yet, when we commit to the adventure, fear and all, we find that in our weakness and inability to complete the adventure alone that we have a Jesus who wraps His arms around us and bears our weight along the way.

2) There is Encouragement for the Journey

Relentlessly, about halfway across the journey {:even though my arms were still tightly wrapped around their waist:} they would become tiered and weary. They would look down and realize that if they were to fall, it would hurt. It was in the middle that I would softly speak encouragement into their little ears: "You are doing so good, buddy! Keep going." "Wow, sweetie! Look how far you have come. You are so strong."

It is always that halfway point that strikes fear in us isn't it? We realize the end isn't all that close, but neither is where we came from. We feel stranded in the middle of our "swing". We aren't sure we have the energy to move forward, but it would take just as much energy to go back. And down? Well, that would really hurt.

It is in that place that, if we listen, we hear encouragement from the Father: "Don't look down. You are doing so well. I am proud of you!" "Keep going. You have got this, because I've got you!"

Just like my students did as I whispered encouragement, we realize that we can keep going when we hear His words because although we may have forgotten, His arms are still wrapped tightly around our waist.

3) Our "Swing" will Inspire the Next "Swing"

I loved watching the dances of victory and the smiles of satisfaction the students would display after climbing down the ladder at the other end of the monkey bars. Most of the students would then run back to the end of the line to try again. While they were waiting, they would share with a friend in line how they did it and encouraged them that they could do it too.

When we finish our swing across the monkey bars, our story is to inspire the "swing" of those around us...and ourselves. It is our story of triumph and victory for others to take the plunge into the new thing and away from the old and comfortable through Jesus. And, it is our triumphant story to remind ourselves of when we go to the next set of monkey bars ,that is a little bit higher and a little bit scarier, that we can do it again because He has called us to it. We have the triumphs of our first swing to stand on.

What is God calling you to 'Let Go' of so you can lay hold of the new adventure and "swing" that lies ahead?

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