Slacklining Monkey Face
“And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
~ Jesus Christ | Mark 4:20 (NLT)
I went on a beautiful hike last spring. The trail, “Misery Ridge,” winds up and over a gorgeous rim and through a gorge along the Crooked River in Central Oregon. The pastel volcanic cliffs are known for fantastic rock climbing, so I expected to see many adventurous souls. I did not expect is to see them “Slacklining” across a deep span to a formation called “Monkey Face.” Are you kidding me?! I watched for a while trying to imagine what motivates people to do this. “Never” I said to myself… It’s not in my nature to take chances doing such things. On the other hand, I am much more adventurous than I used to be.
Escaping the Dreadful Trudge
“I taught each of my kids to push the envelope in a small way at least once each day, and in a bigger way at least once a month” my good friend Michael told me the other day. This really resonated with me, I guess because I’ve had to learn this habit, much as a child matures to become an adult.
“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.”
Proverbs 22:6 (NLT)
I remember literally feeling sick to my stomach when I had to push my envelope long ago… not physically, but in even scarier ways. When I stood to speak in front of my class, my knees literally knocked! In fact, it was not until I was in my 20’s that I started to stretch myself on a more regular basis. Now, though still risk averse, I’m grateful that I have developed a habit of pushing my envelope. My life would be a dreadful trudge had I not learned to do this.
Comfort Draws Us but There is No Life in It.
I used to wake up at 5:00 AM to go to the pool to swim. It was really, really tough to climb out of a warm, comfortable bed, especially as I thought about the cold the water I would soon dive into. I shiver now thinking about it! But I knew the exercise was good for me. After my first lap I felt great, the chill already gone, and even better when I finished all of my laps. If I had not pushed my envelope, I would have been soft, flabby, less healthy. Comfort’s pull leads to death. Movement creates vibrant life.
I’ve always been curious about why Jesus spoke of harvests of 30, 60 or 100X. Why a range? In the investment world, return is typically proportionate to the level of risk; higher risk, higher return. Is Jesus promoting that we take huge risks and go for the 100X? Attempting to slackline Monkey Face day one? I’m not so sure. The Bible teaches us to work hard, focused on incremental steps.
“Wealth from get-rich-quick schemes quickly disappears; wealth from hard work grows over time.”
Proverbs 13:11 (NLT)
Thrusting ourselves into highly risky situations seems counter to the way God typically works.
“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.”
Jesus Christ | Luke 16:10 (NLT)
I’m inclined to think that Jesus was expressing what happens over a lifetime of incremental Jumps of faith (pushing your envelope), smaller ones leading to larger ones. Much like climbing a mountain, though the hike may get tougher and require greater faith as you near the peak, all of your prior steps have brought you to this point. You’ve been prepared for this bigger Jump.
30, 60, 100X…The Fruit of Many Jumps
Imagine your fruitfulness having made daily Jumps over the course of many, many years? Fruit, in the biblical sense is the “by product” of faith. We are not to seek to produce fruit. Instead, we are pressed to continue to grow by faith, from infants to maturing followers, representing Christ more completely as we climb. The fruit will come.
“For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.”
The Apostle Paul | Hebrews 11:13-14 (NLT)
Paul wrote this after explaining that Jesus himself learned obedience through great suffering and this qualified him to be the perfect High Priest. With each faithful Jump, we leave a bit of our old self behind. The path we are called to follow does not come without the suffering of the loss of our old ways. But our suffering produces fruit that far outweighs the cost.
Create a Daily Habit
Long ago, a great teacher of mine posed this question to our class: “How do you eat a steak?” After bumbling around a bit, we came to the answer he was looking for – “One bite at a time.” Of course! Yet, as a coach I see people falling into two groups.
- Those who dread pushing the envelope and find themselves stuck in the spiritual doldrums, not really living.
- Those who are anxious to change the world in one swoop and find themselves disappointed.
Ah, but the wise form a habit of pushing their envelope with daily Jumps of faith.
“The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.”
Proverbs 4:18 (NLT)
Before you know it, their lives will shine with the full light of day. A rock climber labors day by day to stretch himself, perhaps one day finding himself preparing to slackline Monkey Face. Fearful? I suspect so! Yet prepared for this incremental Jump, which is really just the next step in the adventure of his life.
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