Courage and Cliffs

When I was in high school, I loved to go cliff jumping. My friends and I would spend entire summers exploring the natural pools and waterfalls of Vermont. We'd jump off of cliff after cliff, whistling and cheering for each other, laughing and surprising ourselves and one another with our own bravery.

one of the popular cliff jumping spots in Vermont.
As I spent those summers getting lost in adventure, I learned a lot that would stick with me forever. I learned about risk, about bravery, about the power of motivation, about friendship, and maybe a little bit about stupidity too.

But I also learned one very important life lesson each and every single time I stood at the top of a cliff.

The longer you stand at the top looking down, the less likely you'll be to ever jump off.

The thing is, the human mind is both complex and simple. Our thoughts both influential, and simultaneously powerless. We can talk ourselves in or out of anything. The moment we stand up there, looking down is the moment that defines what will happen next. We can either think to ourselves about what might go wrong, or we can jump and enjoy the freedom of the fall. But getting lost in our thoughts and in entertaining doubt is what will stop us from ever knowing the difference.

There is a line in the movie "We Bought a Zoo" that comes to mind:

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

Bravery doesn't have to be your defining character quality. You don't have to look like a knight in shining armor to have incredible courage. You really only need to muster up a few seconds of courage and you can accomplish greatness. 

It's the "taking the leap" that stops most of us. It's the fear of your feet leaving the solid ground behind that keeps us from knowing what it feels like to fly. 

This past summer we vacationed as a family on the North Shore. There are beautiful cliffs there, tall and grandiose, hovering over welcoming deep water. It's been about 6 years since I've gone cliff jumping--explained by the fact that I've been either pregnant or nursing a new infant for the past 6 years straight. But this, this was my summer to jump off another cliff. This year for me has been all about bravery. It's been about taking risks, surprising myself, and welcoming new adventure. It was the perfect time to reconnect with an old adventure and to remind myself that I'm still capable of insane courage. 

I stood at the top, and I hesitated. My feet shook and my heart pounded and I wondered where my carefree boldness had run off to.

But I looked down at the shore, and I saw my children and I saw my husband cheering for me and I knew that I didn't have to muster the courage on my own. My mind didn't get to make this decision. My doubt didn't have a say. I have all the bravery I need to do anything in this life.

My feet left the cliff. And in those moments that I fell through the air, I knew I was powerful. I was free. I was capable. I was brave. 

What cliff are you standing at the top of today? What is your doubt holding you back from in life? Stop standing at the top looking down. You'll never get anywhere that way. 


~Lisa said...

Love love love it Claire! Yes to 20 seconds of courage!

Emily Kissell said...

Oh man Claire.
I literally teared up when you first posted it on fb and avoided it until I felt I could allow myself to cry. This was the exact thing I needed to read for what I'm going through tonight!
I was totally the wimp in school and I have regretted so much because of it. This year, you have (knowingly and unknowingly) helped to motivate me and restore hope in me. At summer camp, I saw tiny kids, who reminded me of me, muster up courage to do these insanely high ropes courses and I said that I am training to be able to do that next summer! They showed me how to be brave and this post is just the motivation I needed to really get going on that goal!

You have no idea what your blog, your posts, your messages, your words have meant to me over the years but especially this year! I cry my eyes out at every blog post! Your words bring such healing and draw me (and others) nearer to the Father's heart!
Thank you!!