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Why I Jumped Out of a Tree    Printer friendly page

Playing Tarzan was a real leap of faith

by Jim Carpenter

“Go for it, Dad! You can do it!” My son’s encouragement wafted up to me as I stood 42 feet in the air on a 2-foot-square platform. Behind me I felt the rough bark of the massive evergreen to which the platform was attached. In front of me, across what seemed like a vast expanse of empty space, I stared at a trapeze.

My next move? Propel myself off the platform and catch this swing hanging 50 feet above the forest floor and five feet away from my sweaty grip. Right.

How did a 40-something dad wind up like this—on a ledge, ready to jump? Well, I signed up for Pine Summit Christian Camp’s ropes challenge course.

The day began in the serene setting of the camp’s beautiful 42 acres nestled in an evergreen forest in Big Bear Lake, California. My two teenage sons welcomed a day off of school and the fun of a Tarzan-style adventure.

First came the orientation, where I donned a helmet, torso harness, and belay rope. The staff members talked about how to fall (yikes!) and how safe you are in the hands of the person handling your belay rope. Then I began the series of challenges.

I climbed up and up, through a maze of rope ladders and log steps, till I reached the 30-foot level. I gingerly crossed three bridges between trees, each about 25 feet apart. The last, with no handholds, was the most precarious. I inched forward like a man wearing magnetic boots, scooting one foot in front of the other, arms raised for balance.

Then one more vertical climb, and there I stood on my little perch, contemplating the meaning of fear and confidence, risk and security, faith and sight.

I zeroed in on the trapeze and tried to shut out everything else. I dried my hands on my jeans. The applause and “attaboys” from below had helped me to this point. But now my trust was in my belayer, a young man named Chris. If I fell, he would bear me up.
Somehow, the forest became silent even as my heartbeat crescendoed.

I launched forward, my hands arching for the rung of the trapeze. Got it! My left hand slipped, then gripped again. I made it!

I hung there, savoring the moment, and then loosened my grip as Chris slowly lowered me to the ground. More applause, and high fives from my boys.

So what did I learn? Well, I learned about risk: that with a good support system, you can go a lot farther than you think. About community: that encouragement from people who care about you can be a powerful updraft to keep you balanced and help move you forward. About faith: that jumping into the unknown isn’t so bad if you trust the person holding your rope.

Thank you, Pine Summit Christian Camp. And thank You, Jesus, for the security of Your love, which frees me to risk and anchors me even if I fall.

Jim is pastor of Bonita Valley Baptist Church. He’s been a writer, editor, and trainer for Dynamic Church Plant-ing International (DCPI) and is coauthor of The New Dynamic Church Planting Handbook (DCPI, 2003).

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