I was thinking and pondering, earlier today, about the way that we move into new things in life. Maybe not so much about “new” thing, whatever it may be, but about our process of getting there. Anytime we find ourselves stepping out onto the ledge of change there are multiple factors at work.
I came to the conclusion that, in my opinion (for whatever that is worth), despite all of the angles and the farrago of different nuances there are really two important factors that come as we grow into new things. There is the preparation and then there is the precipice. I think that these two generalizations capture the whole of the matter in simple, though somewhat frustrating, terms.
Preparation is required before we can do anything well. We are created as creatures of growth and in that creative mold there is a drive in us to know more, move faster, pull harder, live longer, and be better. Even those people who never intentionally prepare for anything are preparing themselves for something, though it might be failure. Life prepares us in an organic way sometimes too. We inadvertently meet people, experience things, struggle through seasons, etc… All of these things shape us and, to a certain extent, part of us becomes the sum of those parts. As Christians we believe that there is a deeper, more profound filter through which we are shaped, namely the image of Jesus, but those experiences are still often the generators that brings us into conformity with His image.
But there is a problem with preparation, it is a three-foot stick for a ten-foot problem. We can prepare and stretch ourselves and do everything within our power to “grow up” into where we want to be (maybe even where we feel like we need to be) and still there is the precipice. There is, in any growth or change, a ledge that we will be forced to look over. Every new season of life is a pirate ship and its only exit is the plank. All of the preparing in the world doesn’t eliminate the precipice. At some point, whether scared, confidant, or confused, we have to step off the edge.
There are tremendous decisions that we have to make along the way in our Christian walk. If you look through the Gospels you find three distinct places where Jesus looked at Peter and asked Him, “will you follow Me?” For three seasons of his life Peter was preparing and being readied for the next season and in every case Jesus led that crusty fisherman to the edge of the cliff and asked him, “are you coming?” I have to wonder if, when Jesus asked, the Savior had a twinkle in His eye. At the boat when Jesus first called Peter, and then after His Messianic identity was revealed and He told them that they would have to give up their own desires to follow after Him, and finally in John 21 when Jesus asks Peter if he is willing to give his mortal life to follow his Master…all three times Jesus looked at Peter and new the joy, fullness, and adventure waiting on the other side of the man’s answer, but every time the precipice was a necessity.
We will find that seasons of preparation can be long and arduous, but they always come to the precipice. There is a place where all 90% of your work will lead you to 10% of the issue, but in that moment you’ll find out that it’s the biggest 10% you’ve ever experienced. Stepping through open doors, even those opened by God can be terrifying. Moving into places that are unknown can be unsettling and create unsavory digestion. But preparation is never enough on its own, there has to be a moment when we, by faith, clutch our chest, let our foot drift over the canyon, and lean forward.