I had the privilege of learning to fly with Temple Pilots earlier this month. Flying is an amazing and dangerous thing to do. In the first day they teach you how to take off. On the second day they teach you how to land. On the third day they take you up a 100m up a hill and throw you off. To put this into perspective, a fall from 12m up is typically fatal.
I wish I could say I was brave and without fear but that would be a lie. Standing on the edge of take off I would badly quote to myself the lines from the movie ‘After Earth’ by Will Smith, “Fear is not real. It is a product of thoughts you create. Do not misunderstand me. Danger is very real. But fear is a choice.” Judging by my heart rate, my thoughts were saying, “The danger is very real. Stop what you are doing.” Fear might be just a by-product of my thinking but in the moment my thoughts weren’t going to let me feel too comfortable.
Just before take off they would ask a question, “Are you ready?” How did I answer that? On the inside my answer was, “Nope, I’m scared.” The way I saw it their question was incomplete. If I reworded their question to, “Are you ready to jump off a cliff that will likely kill you if something goes wrong?” then my answer is most certainly, “NO!!!!!” But what if I reworded their question to, “Are you ready to trust our judgement? We have trained you. We have watched you. We believe that you are ready for this. Do you trust us that you can do this?” My answer was yes and I jumped and I flew. Not because I believed in my thoughts but because I believed in theirs. If I relied on my judgement then I wasn’t going to fly. It’s the same with following Jesus.
Jesus invites us to learn from him how to live an abundant life (Matthew 11:28-30). He is asking us to trust him. He asks us to rely on his judgment. There will be some things he asks us to do that will fill us with fear and we won’t want to do them, like, “love your enemies”. Hmmm. Love isn’t the word that comes to my mind when people do me wrong. “Forgive”, “Bless those who curse you.” These aren’t easy to do in our modern world and I’m not sure I want to. “Worship the Lord your God”. Again, not sure if I want to lock myself into the worship of just one God or any God for that matter. “Nobody can come to the Father except through the Son.” That sounds a bit intolerant and exclusive Jesus – can’t we all just accept everyone? My thoughts. His thoughts. Which one’s am I going to trust? Am I going to rely on his thinking and jump into situations I would rather avoid or am I going to trust him?
Proverbs 3:5 holds the answer for us, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”
He calls us to trust his thoughts. My understanding is limited. My thoughts are incomplete. My assessment of many situations come from fear, frustrations, envy, jealousy. His thoughts come from love, compassion and light.
One of the safety measures by Temple Pilots is to use radio contact throughout the flights. Their goal is to provide instruction while you need it but no more than necessary. They don’t want you to always be tethered to the radio. They want you to become mature as a pilot, to think and feel for yourself. In the beginning they are telling you, “Turn left.” “Go straight.” “Left Brakes. More Left Brakes.” And my favourite instruction, “Turn left. Your other left.” Over time as you learn to think like they think they use the radio less and less. Maturity as a pilot is about internalising their thinking. Thinking like they think. Making judgements from within because I have internalised their thinking processes. I feel like they feel. I see like they see. And then I respond like they respond.
Likewise, Jesus provides us with his basic instructions before leaving earth (B.I.B.L.E) but he wants us to go beyond just following them. He wants us to internalise them, to know them, to think them. Paul says “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16). Jesus’ thoughts are to become our thoughts. His way of feeling is to become our way of thinking. How he sees the world is how we are to see the world. As he brings light and love into the world we are to bring light and love. Discipleship to Jesus is learning how to think like him, how to feel like him, how to respond like him. It’s a process that begins when we put our trust in him, his thoughts. He believes in us. He believes that we can grow. That we can love like he loved.
Jesus trains us to respond in love and in light in a dark world. He takes us up high mountains and tells us to jump off. Upon those mountains we are filled with our thoughts and fears. If we jump people will misunderstand us. People will reject us. People will laugh at us. Forgiving, blessings and loving is not always easy and sometimes very dangerous. It got Jesus killed after all.
It’s dangerous following Jesus. But if we want to be like him then we need to listen to him. We need to internalise his message so that we think like him. And when he asks if we are ready to dangerously love those around us he isn’t asking if we have confidence in ourselves, he’s asking if we have confidence in what he thinks about us. So listen to him, learn from, jump and fly.
p.s. If you are interested in paragliding in India then I highly recommend Temple Pilots. templepilots.com