Toes on the Edge

This week Saylah Leu is sharing her experience of saying yes. We worked together for three summers at Ray of Hope Summer camp serving disadvantaged kids who lived in poverty and/or faced difficult circumstances. Her courage and creativity shines through everything she does. below Saylah explains her own journey of  “Yes” – Katrina

Cropped SaylahCurrently I am writing a blog as I prepare to embark on a year of tent camping around the world doing mission work with an organization called the World Race.  Starting in January 2018 I will be living in a tent, sleeping on the ground, traveling from place to place every few weeks, getting on long flights,  while being surrounded by non-English speakers and non-potable water. I’m going with strangers, leaving my career job, and moving away from my friends in Spokane, WA. The transition between my current job with CPS and thinking about leaving it all behind has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever committed to. The best way I could relate my unease is to comparing this commitment with an experience I had cliff jumping years ago. The only time I every attempted to go with friends, I was a hot mess. There is something about heights, the act of jumping and fall, and losing ground that makes me petrified. All of those emotions I had standing on the edge of the cliff I’ve been experiencing now I march forward in preparation for next year. 

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Cliff jumping; what a horrible and terrifying activity. The one time I every attempted such an activity I can still recall the dizzying feeling of standing on the edge and gazing down. During this moment every instinct of survival goes on full blast, pumping adrenaline throughout my nervous system. I am pulverized by fear of every kind. Going through life transition feels the same as this act of cliff jumping. The act of leaping off the cliff, flying through the air, and landing in unknown waters, all of it is harrowing. But what is it about losing our grounding, our constancy, our comfort that unravels us humans? What is it about this act of transition that leads so many of us to have great anxiety, question our identify, and become paralyzed with fear? 

As I prepare for my upcoming transition I admit, I am ball of emotions. Any and all of my friends and coworkers can corroborate this. Just like the emotions that come over me when I stand on an actual edge of a cliff, I hear that inner voice screaming for safety “don’t jump, stay.” And with that voice comes the competing desire to grow, to risk, to dare to dream. 

The cliff jumping metaphor has helped me wrap my head around all these unruly emotions as I process just what it means to say “yes” and dive in to this next season of life. 

Toes On the Edge:

When we find ourselves marching towards the edge of the cliff what we are really approaching is the end of something. Transition starts at the end. It starts when our toes are on the edge of a cliff and we know the next steps forward are going to propel us into something completely new and unknown. When we find ourselves in this moment on the edge, violent emotions break over us; emotions of anger, doubt, fear, shock, and sadness. How could you not be rattled? How could these violent emotions not translate into profound pain? It’s no wonder it takes every ounce of our bravery to put our toes on the edge and leap off.

At some point in our lives, we all stand on the edge of what we desire most. We stand with our greatest hopes in view, but there is often a gaping space between use and what we desire most. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘taking a leap of faith.’ But what is faith but courage in its purest form, courage to believe and trust with certainty. Our greatest measure for courage what we do when we find ourselves at that ‘leap of faith moment.’ Remember, all those powerful emotions wash over you, what do you do? Do you jump?

The edge of a cliff is an ending of certainty. As we approach the edge and gaze into the abyss of uncertainty, the loss of solid ground is overwhelming. The knowledge, like a warning light, flashes across our mind: once I jump everything changes.

As humans we have instinctual impulses of fear that enable us to survive. But what makes us humans different from our animals friends is the ability to choose. On the edge of the cliff, in the moment of hesitation, we come to know who we are by what we choose. Because not everyone jumps. Some people live their entire lives glancing at their dreams in the distance. Some people never take the leap away from comfort to pursue something greater.

The Free Fall: 

If standing on the edge of cliff is the equivalent to experiencing the pain and confusion of losing what is known, than the free fall is that moment of transition. When you’re in a free fall, nothing grounds you, their is nothing to grab on to, the orientation of the world is unknown. And most of the time this moment of physical transition is brief (in the grand scheme of life). But even in its brevity, we can’t diminish the free fall’s the profound sense of bewilderment. When are toes are on the cliff, everything in us resists change. But when we make that leap and we fall through the air, its that moment of confusion and new stronger wave of emotions in which we start to question who we are and what we’ve done. 

To me, part of being a Christian is believe who Jesus is God and to believe he resides in my heart. That might sound clique, ‘Jesus is in my heart.’ But its not! In the world where gravity exists and you’re free falling through the air, having Jesus within you means you are tethered to something solid beyond the understanding of the physical world.

The Watery Landing

And just like its over. Your plunge feet first through the water’s surface and your whole body is momentarily underwater. The feeling all around you is markedly different but you’ve landed. You swim up to the air and take a first breath. All of the emotions from moments before, their imprint is still there but weight of them has been lifted. Some of the sadness is still there but its replaced by the immediate task of treading water and trying to make sense of this new world. The watery landing is a new beginning, a chance to grow, traverse across new landscapes, and do great things. 

Its not to say the watery landing is always a blank slate. I would venture to say, when we hit the water we are typically greeted with unknown creatures and circumstances. Sometimes on the other end of the free fall is calm waters, and sometimes there are rapids, choppy waters, or outright storms. Sometimes on the other end of what we desire most, is more unforeseen journey.

The Mechanics of Courage: 

We dive off these metaphorical cliffs in order to live lives of greatness. But greatness is pricy. To live in this way it requires the desire and willingness to take risks even in the face of immense suffering. People who decide to live this way are called not to dive off these cliffs blindly or spontaneously, but with full intention to swim. 

 What do you call a life on stormy seas? Hardship.

That moment when you choose to leap off the cliff’s edge is pure courage.  This moment marks a decision to abandon your security, comfort, predicability, and risk for everything for the unknown in front of you. It’s the moment of Yes. It’s the moment when everything changes. 

As I stand on the edge of the cliff now I know my life is about to change drastically. I am deeply mournful. But I am in this place now because a while back I decided to leap off a different cliff years ago. Four years ago I left beautiful Bellingham, WA, the place that was my comfort zone and my home. I left to go to graduate school and I landed in a sea of wheat and sage brush in Cheney, WA. It took time accept and love my new home, But I did. And I came to love it deeply. I got my degree, a job, a community. Even though my job working for CPS caused me to experience great pain, my heart grew bigger for the world. It was jumping into this place, Eastern Washington that changed me once again. But my time here is ending. I am bewildered as this transition approaches, I feel like it snuck up on me. But its happening. And when the moment is right I know I will jump. Because that is who I am.

 

If you’d like to continue to follow Saylah’s around-the-globe journey, you can read more on her blog here! 

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