When I was a teenager I leapt from a twenty-foot cliff into a lake of snakes. I didn't know about the water snakes when I took the leap. It was hard enough to pluck up the courage to step off the cliff, without knowing what I was getting into down below. But the point is, I did it, and I remember the incident with a certain amount of pride.
How things change! Last night, the birthday party of a friend seemed like more risk than I really wanted to take. I readily agreed to attend when we received the invitation. I like my friend. But when the day came, the thought of spending an evening mingling with people I didn't know, rising entertainingly to each new conversation, having the energy to stay through to a respectable hour to leave--I felt more resistance to this than to a whole lake of snakes.
In the early years of my faith, I liked that Jesus was a fiery prophet. "Blind guides!" "Hypocrites!" "I have not come to bring peace, but a sword!" It was the faith of an adolescent, all piss and vinegar, empowering me to take on my own parents, and then all the other adult authority figures who stood in line behind them, all wanting to put me in my place. "Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?!"
But these days I take comfort from that other Jesus, meek and mild, who welcomed the children, taking them up on his knee, letting them all come to him, even the old, if they too would listen to his voice, or but touch the hem of his garment. "Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."
I don't know when this happened, this shift from taking risks to wanting rest. And it's not like I'm ready to lie down altogether. I still like to kick at the can, to raise my voice, even to pump my dappled fist in the air. But those are limp gestures now. Because I'm no longer willing to take the leap, and everyone knows it.