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Taking the Plunge

by Joelle Williams

It wasn’t easy to make myself jump off a cliff—for a cute guy, or for God!

    “So, Joelle, are you going cliff jumping?”
    I laughed incredulously. “Yeah, right. I’d rather live.”
    “Oh, come on. It’s not that bad,” Brad said as he leaned forward in his cafeteria chair. “I did it, like, three times. Lots of people have done it, and nobody’s ever gotten hurt!” He was determined to convince me. “It’s really fun. Even Adriel did it.”
    “I really don’t think I could, Brad.”
    “It’s not that high. There’s a boat going out there in a half hour. Hey, I’ll go with you and watch to make sure you don’t die.” Brad could tell I was deliberating.
    Indian Creek Camp took a couple of boats every afternoon out to the cliffs on the lake, where all participants, after donning life jackets, flung themselves one at a time over the edge into the lake below. It was perfectly safe—or so they said. On top of that, Brad was cute.
    The girls in my cabin all said Brad acted as if he liked me. I didn’t know about that, but I didn’t mind if I impressed him. Yet I’d never liked heights, and jumping off a cliff, especially for fun, sounded like a terrible idea. I turned the paper napkin clenched in my hand into a rock-hard ball.
    “What if I can’t—?”
    “You’ll be fine,” Brad reassured me. “You’ll be able to jump once you get up there.”
    “Aww, nah . . .” I squirmed, already half convinced.
    “You’re no fun,” Brad teased. “You’re such a wuss. I didn’t really think you could do it, anyway.”
    All right, this irritating but good-looking guy had insulted my pride. I’d never hear the end of it for the rest of Leadership Conference. I couldn’t lose this one now.
    Glaring at Brad I exclaimed, “Fine, I’ll go! I’ll just jump off the smaller cliff or something.”
    “Awesome! I’ll bring my video camera,” he offered. “This is going to be so cool!’
    “Right . . . really exciting,” I muttered nervously. I threw my napkin ball at Brad. “See you at the docks.”
    The autumn of my sophomore year was one of taking some chances.
Diving in
    While Brad tried to convince me to release all and go jump in a lake, someone else was working on me in a different way. I felt as if God really wanted me to dive into a deeper relationship with Him. I wasn’t sure how to do that, and I was holding back.
    How can I get to know You more, God? I asked Him. And every time I felt more convicted that what He wanted me to give Him was my time. A couple minutes worth of devotions each morning and night was nice, but it was barely anything. If I wanted to get to know my Savior deeply, I began feeling the need to invest quite a bit more time into our relationship. I was thinking of something like an hour every day.
    On my way back to my cabin to change, I asked a girl who’d been cliff jumping how high the cliffs were.
    “Well, the biggest one is about as high as the roof there,” she replied, pointing to a two-story building.
    “Nice,” I replied, wishing I didn’t believe her. “Looks like fun.”
    “It’s really scary,” she grinned. “One girl stood there for 10 or 15 minutes before doing it, and another girl wasn’t able to jump at all.”
    If I hadn’t already told Brad I’d do it, I would’ve backed out right there and spent my recreation time swimming in the nice, safe pool with the tame high dive. That seemed like nothing now, compared to a cliff.
    Although I wasn’t thinking much about it at the time, my fear of jumping off the cliff paralleled my tenseness about surrendering everything to God, including my irretrievable gift of time. I always had stuff I wanted to do, and there was always very pressing homework. If I put my devotions before homework, my grades might fall! It seemed like either that or nothing, though.   Which was more important to me?
    Why in the world am I doing this? I wondered for the millionth time as I sat, shivering and damp, in the windy motorboat. The sky looked gray and heavy.  The orange life jacket I had on was the warmest thing I was wearing. I looked around the crowded boat. Brad wasn’t even going to be there to watch me do this for him. There had been no room for him on the boat, so he got left on the dock, waving cheerfully while I clutched the edge of the boat for dear life, deeply regretting my decision.
    To the right of the speeding boat, the cliffs gradually appeared along the forested shore. A light drizzle of rain made them look dark and slippery. With a bump, the boat stopped at the base of a rocky slope. With the others I climbed out and slowly picked my way up the rough incline.
    The guys laughed and pushed each other around while the girls chatted nervously about the jump. I didn’t fight to be in the back of the line, I just wanted to get it over with. One by one the girls standing between me and thin air disappeared with little yelps over the edge. I watched them with increasing trepidation. What if something went wrong?
    As my turn approached, suddenly I went numb. I was going to do this. It didn’t matter if it killed me—I was going to conquer this cliff, so help me. Terror left me as my fate approached.
    Someone in the boat gave me the all-clear sign, and I walked with slow steps to the edge. I looked straight ahead at the stormy sky and silvery lake. It was a lovely view. I turned my eyes downward. I’m going to die, I thought, staring past my toes to the gray, churning water below. I was OK with that, though. No more was I questioning why I was doing this, and no longer was I doing it for Brad. I was just doing it. Suddenly, it seemed worth it. Brad knew what he was talking about after all.
    One—two—three. But I couldn’t manage it, not yet. I wasn’t terrified, but I was scared. Those who had gone before, bobbing in the water near the boat, were all cheering for me. I said a prayer, then I yelled, “I’m going to do it this time!”
    One—two and before I had time to second-guess myself, my feet left the solid stone. My eyes snapped shut. I didn’t know whether or not I was screaming in ecstasy or fear as I fell through the air. I knew nothing but the sensation of falling, and it was thrilling!
    Even more thrilling
    What was even more thrilling that autumn was falling in love with God. It wasn’t easy at first to take such a large chunk of time out of my afternoon. It still isn’t, and too often it doesn’t happen.
    Stuff comes up, and it’s sometimes impossible to find an hour of solitude, for instance, on a school trip. At home homework always looms, and sometimes I just have to grit my teeth, have my devotion time first, and pray that I get all the work finished before it’s too late at night.
    I found that the longer I made my time with God a top priority, and the more consistent I was about doing it, it became less difficult. Schoolwork always seemed to slide into place around it, and my grades were fine. I still had time to do fun stuff.
    At first an hour seemed like a huge amount of time that I was just spending sitting in my room, wondering what to do next. Now that amount of time spent praying and reading the Bible and sometimes journaling in my prayer journal doesn’t seem like that long. Sometimes it’s more, and sometimes it’s less. But for me it’s important to keep doing it.
    The more time I spend in fellowship with God, the more I enjoy the time we spend together. Taking the time to get in touch with Him is not just a nice idea. It’s more than worth it to take the deeper dive. It’s incredibly awesome!

    Joelle Williams is a sophomore at Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee, where she’s majoring in social work. In her free time Joelle likes to draw, do nature photography, and have fun with friends. Her home is in McDonald, Tennessee.

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