Under the Influence

“Karl, let’s go bungee jumping,” some kids from my summer day camp urged.

“Forget it. I’d rather chew on chalk.”

“Come on. Why not?”

“Because I don’t want you to dig me up in order to bury me.”

“Come on, Wimpbreath, take a risk. Nobody’s ever had more than one accident.”

At first, I wouldn’t even consider it. But some of the chanciest choices in my life have come while under the influence of campers who show no fear. The next thing I knew, I was on a crane heading 110 feet above a pool of water that looked no bigger than a glob of spittle.

To make matters worse, the attendant hooking me up looked as greasy as a truck stop skillet.

I leveled with him right up front, “I don’t trust you tying that strap around my ankles.”

“Why not?”

“Because your shoes are untied.”

When we reached the top, he ordered “OK, jump.”

“Whoooooaaa there, crazy cowboy,” I said, “don’t I get a lesson?”

“No need.”

“Well, um, ah, do I jump up or down?”

“It don’t matter.”

“Should I keep my hands tucked or spread?”

“It don’t matter.”

“Are you on drugs?”

“It don’t matter.” He paused, and continued. “I used to be on drugs, but I gave them up.”

“Oh really, how long ago?”

“What time is it?” he asked with a smirk. “No really, I used to do drugs but I turned over a new leaf.”

“Right,” I thought, “then he smoked it.”

“Listen, fella,” he barked, “If you don’t jump, I’m pushing you.” (He did have a way of being persuasive.)

In that one moment of insanity, I stepped off the platform. And I’ve gotta tell you. It was the most exhilarating ride of my life.

When my feet landed safely back on earth, I wanted to hug the kids who had put me up to it and shout, “I looooooooove you man!”

Under another influence

Rarely have I regretted risks I’ve taken. In fact, my most cherished memories are married to my biggest risks. I’ve discovered a simple truth: The higher the risk, the greater the reward.

Think about your most valued experiences. They probably have a connection to a risk: asking out the most chiseled hunk in school; running for Student Association president; playing a recital for a large crowd. The reward always follows the risk.

The same principle rings true in the spiritual arena. David writes: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5, 6, NRSV).

David’s suggesting a risky plunge. To trust completely in God sets you apart from the crowd. (“Come on, everybody is going to the dance on Friday night.”) It exposes you to ridicule. (“Only prudes are virgins these days.”) It gives you a buzz to trust recklessly that God will come through. (“You can’t pay your school bills—why on earth would you tithe?”)

But God says “Jump, I’ll catch you.” And when you’re living under the influence of His Spirit, you leap. And catch your breath—because you’re in for the most exhilarating ride of your life! •

April 01, 2003 / Fresh Start
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Karl Haffner is senior pastor of the Walla Walla College Church and writes from College Place, Wash.