I stood on the edge of a 300′ canyon, palms clammy and heart racing as I looked down through the narrow walls and in to the raging river below. Hesitant, I visualized the steps needed to make a successful jump, thinking through each piece to make sure I wouldn’t mess it up. After a few long seconds, there could be no more delay. I stepped off the edge in to free fall…..
My younger brother, Benjamin, and I took a trip of a lifetime through Europe this Summer (2016). We began in Italy, spending time in the Tuscan mountains and Ligurian coast, before a short weekend in the French Alps, followed by several days in Switzerland. It was here in a land of surreal alpine views, countless waterfalls, and pristine lakes that the above adventure played out.
Benjamin has always been more of a risk taker and adrenaline junkie than I. The one thing he wanted to do more than anything while in Switzerland was a canyon swing. This is certainly the place to do it, with one of the highest and most daring swings in the world. Canyon swings differ from bungee jumping in that they allow for true free fall for a long distance before catching the arc of the swing and rushing along the ground and back up, before eventually coming to a stop. The proximity of walls on either side, combined with the unrestricted free fall leave most people saying it is more of a thrill than a bungee jump.
After thankfully surviving the canyon swing, the next day led us to an even more challenging adventure of canyoning one of the most intense and difficult commercial canyons available. Canyoning sounds simple in that it is essentially working your way down a canyon through a series of jumps, slides (think a natural water slide carved in to the rock), and rappels. Sounds easy until you’re standing on the edge of a 40′ waterfall being told to jump in to a tiny pool of water below, this time with no rope attached. O, by the way, make sure you swim out of the pool as soon as you land or you may get swept over an even bigger drop….
Opposed to the canyon swing, which was a big thrill that lasted mere minutes, canyoning was 2 1/2 hours of frigid water, rushing slides, and those big jumps over waterfalls and rock ledges. Physically it was a challenge, but mustering the courage to face each feature left me pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone again and again.
I am naturally very risk adverse. I tend to only take very calculated risks after weighing the options and risk/reward for a long time. When I do embark, I tend to proceed cautiously, feeling for a secure foothold before I release my last one. I saw this on the edge of the canyon as I carefully visualized each step, holding on to the rope and taking the least risky position for the plunge. By comparison, some of my fellow adventures took flying leaps, headfirst and spread eagle, with seemingly no concern for the consequences. One canyon swing participant ended up with a close call as he did a full 360 rotation on the way down, narrowly missing the rope entangling him and leading to a nasty end. The canyoning was similar, although more controlled, as I saw my careful visualization before each challenging jump, compared to the other’s carefree jumps.
Taking a risk that requires you to get outside of your comfort zone shows you a lot about yourself. The same way you approach the edge of a cliff is likely the way you approach a business deal, or new relationship. When you come through one of these experiences unscathed, it also teaches you that getting out of your comfort zone likely isn’t going to kill you, and instead you’ll have a great story and memory! After the trip I found myself thinking a lot about these concepts. In hindsight, these were some of the best memories we made, and I wouldn’t have done them if not for my brother’s prompting.
God spoke to me clearly in the days following our time in Switzerland that my fear of risk is holding me back from achieving the potential He has placed inside of me. He has given me gifts and talents that are currently being invested for a meager return due to my hesitancy and fear (lack of faith) to step out in to the unknown. For example, I know I have abilities in business, speaking, and leadership that are best in class, but currently they are used in exchange for a comfortable salary rather than launching out with my own business and potentially limitless returns in finances and influence.
It isn’t pride to acknowledge that through God’s grace He has placed certain talents within you that must be carefully stewarded. God expects us to fully use our ability. Even demands it! The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 talks about how the Master (God) gave each servant in accordance with his ability (v.15). Upon His return, He was not upset that they had varying levels of ability, but that they did not all invest in accordance with the ability they had. The servant who had buried his talent was severely punished for not at least taking a level of risk in giving it to the bank to earn some interest! Note that the Master didn’t expect that servant to go out and start a business, invest in futures, or undertake some other type of daring, high risk investment. He just asked him to do something in accordance with his faith. At the end of the story we see that the servant who had the most received the talent that the other servant didn’t invest wisely. I imagine that the other two servants weren’t born with a level of ability where they could be trusted with their two and five talents, but rather it came through a series of tests that challenged and built their own faith.
In the Kingdom, faith is the currency of ability. God isn’t just looking for those with the most natural talent, but those who trust Him enough to let Him use them fully. God can do more with someone with seemingly small talent but tremendous faith than someone with the reverse. Faith is the ability we need to do great things for God, not natural talent. Yes, God gives us that too, but it is through faith that we can exercise those muscles of talent. Talent without faith is not ability.
How often do you get outside of your comfort zone? Is your return being limited by your lack of risk? I encourage you to embrace things that challenge your fear and build your faith. It is only by pushing those boundaries that our faith is grown to the point that we can do all that God has planned for us.