Jumping Off of the Cliff…

“There’s a faculty built into the human brain that makes every cliff seem twice the height when you’re looking down from the top and everything in you says, ‘Don’t even think about it’. So you don’t think about it, you just hurl yourself off out into the middle of the canyon, and then you free-fall for what feels like enough time to recite the Gettysburg Address and all your senses are on maximum alert as you plunge into the cold water. When you come back up the crowd is cheering and something in you is also cheering because you did it.

In his book, Wild at Heart, John Eldridge re-tells the story of a time when he and his family went on a cliff jumping adventure. The quoted paragraph above is from the 11th chapter of this book. Eldridge goes on to say: “After that first jump you have to do it again, partly because you can’t believe you did it and partly because the fear has given way to the thrill of such freedom”

When I first read this book a few months ago, I was blown away by something that Eldridge said shortly after the quotes from above.

“I want to live my whole life like that. I want to love with much more abandon and stop waiting for others to love me first. I want to hurl myself in a creative work worthy of God. I want to charge the fields at Banockburn, follow Peter as he followed Christ out onto the sea, and pray from my hearts true desire.”

I think of youth ministry and can resonate with Eldridge’s words about wanting to live his whole life as if he were jumping off of a cliff. I, too, wish to live my life loving with abandon and without having to wait for others to show me love first. I, too, want to hurl myself in a creative work worthy of God. I, too, want to charge the fields in a major battle, follow Peter as he followed Christ out onto the raging sea, and pray from my hearts true desire.

As I have been thinking through this for the past few weeks, I have been attempting to ask myself how these things can apply to youth ministry. Here is what I came up with:

Loving with Abandon:

“I want to love with much more abandon and stop waiting for others to love me first.” Many times in my life, I would wait until someone showed me love before I would show them love. I have been hurt many times in the past by doing it the other way around and, in a sense, I was afraid and unwilling to do it anymore, so I closed myself off to this approach. However, I have changed my approach over the last few years. In youth ministry, it can’t be about waiting until a student will show you love. Your ministry will not be successful that way and you will not be able to show that student the love of Christ! We can’t sit around waiting for students to show up and start loving us; we need to go to them. We need to go to where they are, build relationships with them, love on them, and show them what it means to have a relationship with Jesus! In my experience thus far in youth ministry, I have found that students today are hurting much more than they were when I was their age. They have so many more influences and experiences that simply weren’t present 10 or 15 years ago. With that being said, it’s ridiculous for us to think that a student is going to magically come to us and start loving us on their own. Many students have no example of love in their lives; therefore we need to be that love!

Jumping In:

“I want to hurl myself in a creative work worthy of God.” To me, this quotation is saying that it is beneficial to dive in to something creative that will glorify God. This is why I attempt to always change and adapt my ministry in new, innovative, and creative ways. Ways that will take the attention off of me and my leaders, and place it where it needs to be…on God!

Charging, Following, and Praying:

“I want to charge the fields at Bannockburn, follow Peter as he followed Christ out onto the sea, and pray from my hearts true desire.” Although I don’t know much about the war of Scottish Independence known as the Battle of Bannockburn (I had to Google it to find out what it was so I can make myself sound intelligent on this blog), I can picture what it would be like to charge out onto a battlefield ready to fight for what I believe in. I’m ready to fight for the souls of my students (both current and future). I’m ready to meet the enemy head-on and make him aware that these students have been bought with a price…the Blood of Christ!

I want to know what it would be like to be right behind Peter as he took that first step out onto the raging sea towards Jesus! I want to know what it looks like in my ministry to step out of my boat (my comfort zones) and step into the unknown (the dangerous, unknown, and chaotic waves of ministering to teenagers). These things don’t scare me because I know that if I keep my eyes on Jesus, then I will not be shaken!

I want to know what it means to pray from my hearts true desire. I’m very real with God when I am talking to him. I want to be able to be real with him about my students (current and future) as well, but in order for this to happen; I need to continue to be there with and for them. I need to show them love. I need to do everything that I mentioned a few paragraphs ago in order to love with abandon. My prayer for youth ministry is that students would have the desire to open up and be real with their youth pastors and leaders, just as those same youth pastors and leaders are real with them!

In closing, I would like to find out what these things look like in your youth ministries, lives, and careers! Can you relate to these things? Are you the person who sits back and waits/hopes that people will come and start loving you? Or have you seen yourself as the person going all out and jumping off of the cliff?

–          paulg

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