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Girl Meets God

    by Melissa Mathews

Perilous Plunge
Date Posted: March 29, 2009

"As your days, so shall your strength be." Deuteronomy 33:25

"It is a wretched taste to be gratified with mediocrity when the excellent lies before us." Issac D'Israeli, 1834

Several years ago, when my sister's in-laws came to California for a visit, the Perrigos and Mathews went on a hike. It wasn't just any hike. It was a 4 - mile round-trip trek with six adults (one of which needed knee replacement surgery, and 9 kids; ages 9,8, 7,6, 5,5, 5,3, and 6-months.

It was all joy when we first started. The trail was beautiful, the kids were excited, and the goal sounded thrilling. We were hiking to a natural water slide. Only my brother-in-law Brant had been there before, but he assured us that we were headed for the time of our lives.

The hike started out pleasantly, but that was short lived. Two and a quarter miles is a long way to drag 9 kids. After what seemed like a grueling lifetime of prodding and nagging the kids along, we finally made it to the falls. The granite slides were a pretty unbelievable sight-- very much worth the trip. A creek came out from the mountains between two fairly steep banks and then it flowed over these four smooth, steep granite slopes. The stream was about 6 feet wide and just deep and slow enough to allow algae to grow on the granite. The pitch of each slope was sharp enough that the water formed a small fall end of each slope and splashed into a deep pool-the slider's destination between each slope. It went like this: creep out to the edge of the huge rock, slide blindly into a pool, swim to the pool's edge, awkwardly pull yourself out of the water, creep forward to the edge of slope number two, and do it all two more times. After the third slide, you had to climb back the steep 100 yards back to the top.

Only two of the kids were smart enough to see the danger of this crazy activity. So the two dads and 6 kids made their way to the first slope. The rest of us sat on a blanket on the stream bank to watch.

Of course, we didn't get to watch for long before all the brave ones starting begging. "Please come do it! You have to," they pleaded. "It's so much fun!"

How could fearing for your life be fun, let alone the 50- degree climb up a slick granite face back to the top of the slides? I don't know if it was the begging, the thought of being bested by a 5-year old, or the fear of turning into an old woman before my time that got me off the blanket. But something did. Michelle and I both decided we were up for the challenge. So we each crept out to the middle of the stream, sat on our bottoms, and inched forward to the edge of the drop-off. Could I really do this? Could I fly off of a ledge into a pool that I couldn't even see?

Now it was too late, I could never walk off this precipice without killing myself, so I had to slide. I moved out just an inch further and "AGHH" fell with a big breath-stealing splash to the pool below. I had done it! I wasn't an old lady or a big chicken! I had done it.

We did the first three falls a couple of times. Then Brant and Scott wanted to do the last slope. Slide Number Four. We had been warned by a 20-something kid at the grocery store the week before not to do it. "It's way dangerous. You have to use a rope to crawl out of the pool of water and back to the top of the hill."

But of course, Brant had already been insane enough to do it on his last trip to this spot, so he was all for it. Scott had read the book Wild at Heart, so he wasn't going to miss it either. They both did it, and both survived. Then they started begging me to do it too. "Come on Melissa. Surely you're tough enough." They really know how to get me. Being perceived as weak is one of my pet peeves.

So I went for it. I crept out on to ledge number 4. It made the other slopes seem flat. I only thought I couldn't see the pools under the other slides. This rock jutted out so far you couldn't see anything but more rocks. What if I missed the pool? How much life insurance did I have?

I finally held my breath and slipped off the edge. My heart caught in my throat as I fell into the narrow pool below. "That wasn't so bad," I thought. But it turns out, that wasn't the scary part of this slide. I made my way to the edge of this tiny pool, and looked at its vertical rim. How could I ever get out of this? The water was so cold and turbulent that I was having trouble breathing and feeling my arms. The lip that separated this pool from another straight drop was only inches wide. I was really beginning to think that I might not be able to get out, or I would get out only to fall on the rocks below.

I reached my hand out of the pool and groped for the rope. I found it, but my hands were so cold that I didn't know if I could hold on tight enough to crawl out. Then I started praying. Then I started kicking myself for being stupid enough to try this. I finally pulled myself out of the water and onto the steep slope. Then step by step, I inched my way to where Scott and Brant were standing. I didn't know whether to hug them or hit them.

My heart finally quit racing about a half mile into the hike home. Wow, why had I done that? But I also thought "Whew, I'm so glad I did." I hadn't been too afraid to go for it. I wasn't going home wondering what I had missed out on.

I think life poses lots of situations like that granite water slide. A co-worker brings up a theological question and our heart races. "Do I have what it takes to answer that question?" We get this great idea for a business and think "Could I really do that?" We hear of a huge ministry need at church and think "I'm not sure about that." And invariably, we back away. We chicken out. We say "I can't do it." We let someone else have all the fun.

And the truth is sometimes we can't do it. We don't have what it takes to forge through some of the challenging opportunities that stare us in the face. In Genesis 41:16, Joseph is brought before Pharaoh to interpret his dreams. Joseph didn't say to Pharoah, "It will be so easy to interpret your dreams." Instead, he said "I cannot do it." Joseph knew he couldn't do it alone. He went on to say, "but God will give Pharoah the answer he desires."

There are lots of things we can't do, but God can still do those things through us. God can help us creep out to the edge of no return. He can help us open our mouths to answer a question that seems unanswerable. He can help us slide down that steep slope into a ministry that we never thought we could accomplish. He can help us plunge into the cold world of a new business and make it out with our swimsuit on.

With God, we can take a frightening fall into the unknown and feel the exhilaration of doing something we thought was impossible-maybe something everyone thought was impossible. We can take a perilous plunge and watch God get all the glory.

"Word from Scotland" from Sandy Shaw

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Biography Information:
I'm a preacher's kid, pastor's wife, and southern belle who married a Southern California boy. Can you say 'culture clash?' Scott and I have four boys - Max, Mark, Jackson, and Grant who keep us busy with homework and sports.

Scott and I have been married 22 years and currently live in Northern California where we are beginning year five as church planters. I also teach 12th grade English and love it.

I would love to hear from you. Email me anytime at
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