“I want to jump off the high dive,” sounded daring spoken from the safety of the ground. But, as I joined the line climbing the endless steps necessary to reach the diving area my ‘fearless’ words sounded like the dumb bragging of the eight-year-old boy, I was.
“Why am I doing this?” I thought. “Turn back!” But the line slowly moved ever upward. There was no easy way to climb down. So, I climbed another rung of the ladder ever closer to my fate.
Shortly after seeing Jesus risen from the grave, the disciples decided to go fishing. These same disciples had previously abandoned their leader, helplessly watched him get arrested, tried, beaten, crucified, buried and then miraculously reappear. After seeing him, touching his wounds, hearing his words of encouragement, they were excited. Then Jesus told them to wait and disappeared again.
So how do they respond? They went fishing!
“This is dad’s fault.” I thought while climbing ever higher upward. “He should have stopped me.” At one point I looked down, swooned and almost fell off the ladder. I seemed to be perched on a thin pole, miles off the ground. The danger and the recklessness of my actions were becoming abundantly clear but it was too late, wasn’t it? I could only continue climbing to my fate and face the consequences.
They were failing as disciples but at least they could fish, or so they thought. They fished all night and caught nothing. Hour after hour, preparing the net, throwing it into the water, hauling it in. Nothing!
Now what? Fishing was the one thing they could fall back on during times of crisis. Now, they couldn’t even do that. The disciples found themselves on their own high diving board looking down into an uncertain future and they were terrified.
When I reached the top of the high dive, the boy in front paused, then confidently took a few steps, jumped hard as the board bent under the weight of his body and flung him ever higher into the air. Gracefully he spread his arms as if they were wings and plummeted to the water below. With hardly a splash, he disappeared into the water only to emerge seconds later with an ecstatic grin on his face.
Now it was my turn. Standing alone on the high dive, my options suddenly seemed clear. “This is crazy.” Even if I survived the fall, I would drown in the deep water. The sensible thing to do was swallow my pride and quit. Turn around, get off that board, climb down the ladder to earth and safety.
Maybe the disciples should give-up before they too faced more persecution and possibly a cross. The sensible thing to do was quit. Turn around, toward home and hope to find a job doing something.
But, facing high diving board experiences is where God appears, and miracles happen.
“At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, ‘Fellows, have you caught any fish?’ Then he said, ‘Throw out your net on the other side of the boat!’” (John 21:4,5)
What? Excuse me? Were these experienced fishermen, throwing the net on the wrong side of the boat? Was Jesus sharing a new fishing secret? Fishing boats aren’t very wide. Whether you throw the net on the left or the right side of the boat should make no difference or does it?
Maybe it was the reassuring and confident tone of the voice on the beach that persuaded the disciples to defy common sense and throw their nets on the other side of the boat. What happened next? “They couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.” (John 21:6)
What was once frustrating and terrifying became an amazing miracle. What changed?
As I stood on the diving board terrified, ready to give up, there was movement in the water below. Someone was swimming to where I would hit the water. Wait a minute — that someone was my father. With a smile on his face and hands held high, he shouted, “Everything is OK. Jump!”
What? Excuse me? It was still a high dive. What difference would it make if someone else was in the landing zone? But the reassuring and confident presence of my dad in the water below persuaded me to defy my fear and leap into the unknown.
What happened next? Flying through the air was exhilarating. Upon hitting the water, strong hands grabbed hold and propelled me toward the surface. Within seconds after my head popped above the water, dad was beside me: “How was it?”
“Wow!” I replied. “Can I do it again?”
What was once frightening was now thrilling. What changed?
We all occasionally face the equivalent of the “High Dive:” The feeling of being trapped by our own misjudgments or circumstances beyond our control.
When we least expect it a reassuring and confident presence offers encouragement to try a new direction. “Everything is OK. Jump!” or “Throw your net on the other side.”
Can we trust the reassuring presence, take a leap of faith, try something new and expect a miracle?
If the disciples had not listened to the voice urging them against all common sense to throw the net on the other side of the boat, they would have missed the excitement of witnessing a miracle. If I had given into my fear and ignored my Dad’s encouragement to jump, I would have missed the adventure and thrill of diving.
What about you? maybe you are feeling on the edge of space with the safety of earth far, far below? If you look carefully, you too will sense a reassuring presence with hands held high and a smiling face. Maybe it’s time for you throw your nets to the other side or take a leap of faith. Maybe it’s time to trust the Godly voice gently whispering in your ear. “Everything will be OK. Jump!”
Rev. Larry E. Davies can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.