Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Honorable Order of Experience

Just a mile up the road is Green River State Park. Like most locals, I never go to the lake, except to take visitors cliff-jumping.
We park the car in a gravel lot and take the trail out to a secluded spot overlooking the man-made lake. The shale stone cliff is only about twenty feet above the lake, but I’m fond of telling first-timers it’s forty feet, minimum. In the woods near the point are the remains of campfires and beer bottles. We tell the newbies to keep their voice down, otherwise the park rangers will run us off, because cliff jumping is not authorized. Too dangerous.
I’m a safety-first kinda guy, so I ask one of the young bucks in our party to first climb down the cliff and swim the waters to check for submerged logs or anything that could cause injury. I watch the first-timers peer over the edge and watch the swimmer below. You can see them do the math about jumping: is it really 40 feet? How often are there submerged logs? Is this really safe?
I know what you’re thinking: This is a post about taking a leap of faith. Nope. This isn’t a metaphor about faith: it’s about experience. Nothing replaces it. 
The word “faith” has been virtually ruined in our discourse. It can mean intellectual agreement with various propositions. It can mean superstition regarding any number of moments in life. Even among Christians, faith is frequently reduced to the mere teaching of bullet points and making sure everyone is on the same page doctrinally.
That’s why cliff jumping is so refreshing: cliff jumping requires the jump: you can walk the path, swim the waters, climb the rocks, but eventually you must jump. Nothing else will do. You can go along and watch. You can correct my estimate of how many feet you will fall. You can watch others all afternoon. But if you’re going to be a cliff jumper, eventually you have to jump.
It doesn’t matter how you jump. Hold your nose and close your eyes. Put your arms in the air like a roller coaster ride. Scream like a little girl. Now you’re a jumper, and sailing through the air trumps study or song. You’ll return home with a new experience and a souvenir memory. You are a member of the Honorable Order of Park Ranger-Defying Cliff Jumpers. You know whereof you speak.
Knowledge and theory are overrated. Experience is underrated. We need experience: it’s the kind of knowing the scripture describes when it urges us: 
Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;
   his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
   as the spring rains that water the earth. (Hosea 6:3)
I want to feel him like the rush of my first jump. Like the wind in my ears. Like the crazy sound of the water when it covers my head in an instant. I want to know him in the twitching of my leg muscles in the night when I go to bed and remember the first time I jumped.
I want faith that grabs him in the middle of the jump and never lets go. I want Paul’s prayer to be answered in me: 
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3: 16-21)
I want words to fail me. I want the fourth dimension. I want faith that grasps his love. Then I’ll go study, because only then will he be with me.


  1. I took a dive
    I took a love plunge into Your arms
    I took a dive
    I took a love plunge into Your arms
    I took a dive
    I jumped in with all my heart
    I took a dive

    Follow me through the door to the great unknown
    Something was telling me that this would shape my destiny
    Take my hand, understand You are not alone
    Shame on me if I oppose the stirring of the Holy Ghost
    Heard a voice calling out to me [out to me]
    I come to set your spirit free [spirit free]
    And in Me you are free indeed

  2. Faith has been misunderstood for a long time in Christian circles. To know God's love and Jesus is the Faith. Faith is not a blind leap.

  3. I agree, John. I hope I was able to communicate that apart from knowing God personally, our faith is lacking. I choose the cliff jumping metaphor precisely because so many people think faith is a "blind leap." But it's about knowing him (john 17:3). Peace to you.

  4. I especially like the line, "Follow me through the door to the great unknown." He invites us to know Him personally, yet he is infinite--we will forever discover who He is. Thanks for sharing your verses.