While staying on the Blue Gill at Raystown Lake, I often wandered up onto the Sun Deck and looked down at the water – about ten or twelve feet below. I wondered how it would feel on some of those hot days to leap from the highest point of the boat into the deep and cool water below. I didn’t try it, though, until the day that my friend Adam was visiting. I was putzing around in the kitchen, and he was exploring the boat. I heard him walking around up top, I heard the furniture moving, I heard running, and as I looked out the back door of the Blue Gill, I saw Adam fly past and land in the water with a shout of joy. I wanted to try – but I didn’t want to go alone. Having Adam encourage me allowed me to venture into a new place of joy and recreation. In the days that followed, I taught others the joy of taking the high dive into the lake from the top of the Blue Gill.
A week or so later, my niece Amy and her family drove up to the Blue Gill on my small boat. They’d been out tubing, etc., while I had been tending to matters on the big boat. As her brothers got off the small boat, Amy looked at me and said, “Uncle Dave, would you come jump off the rocks with me?” Raystown Lake is surrounded by undeveloped shoreline, including a number of places where rock faces seem to rise straight from the watery depths. Again, I’d seen some other folks do some climbing and jumping, but I was usually in the company of sensible people who dismissed such madcap behavior. I said to Amy, “You want to climb up the rocks and jump into the water?” She shook her head and said, “I do. Will you do it with me?”
And so it was that Amy and I, along with her dad Alex, found ourselves climbing up a rock face and jumping into a lake (I know, “If all your friends were jumping into a lake, would you do that, too?” In this case, evidently, the answer is “Yes, I would.”) It was a rush of adrenaline and a great joy to share that memory with these two dear people.
As I have reflected on the time I spent jumping around at Raystown, I am grateful for the number of times that God has put someone in my life who has encouraged me to take a risk or try something new. Mark Campbell telling me to get off my duff and propose to Sharon McCoy…Bob Salinetro and Dave Kier saying that maybe that old theater on Stratmore Street could be turned into a youth center after all…Bill Paul suggesting that maybe I might enjoy a trip to Malawi…Gene Roehlkepartain at Group Publishing encouraging me to submit articles for magazines and The Youth Bible…Don Weaver inviting me to try my luck fishing for steelhead in Erie…Sheldon Sorge suggesting that maybe an application to the Lilly Endowments might help nurture my spirit and enhance my long-term ministry in Pittsburgh…
I have been blessed with a great “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) who have encouraged me to learn and grow through my entire life. As a result, I’ve been able to experience a great many thrills and deep, deep joy. I’ve also wound up with the occasional black eye and skinned knee, but you already know about that. As I continue the Sabbatical, my hope is that I might be the kind of person who is inviting others to “take the plunge” on a daily basis. Maybe you’re not jumping into a lake, but I hope that somehow my life is an invitation to grow in your ability to become more fully the person that God intends you to be. More than that, my hope is that you are calling your friends to dive deeply into the great opportunities that are put in front of each of us daily.
To all of you who have been an encouragement to me, THANKS! And may each of us keep looking for ways to experience the joy that God has for us even when they seem a little risky.