It was an odd sensation: as I watched the airport below become smaller and smaller, I knew this would be the first time—given my background as a pilot—that my number of take-offs would exceed my number of landings. It was also the first time I found myself awkwardly harnessed to another person.
As the pilot leveled at altitude, the jump instructor flung the door open and performed one last safety check before we rolled into the abyss. This was my first jump, and I had no idea what to expect. It was “go time.”
We dropped from the plane, accelerating to terminal velocity—quickly losing the sensation of falling. It was the shoreline south of Miami and whooshing wind until the guy strapped to me pulled the ripcord. Instantly we decelerated—which meant the shoot opened, yay!—and something unexpected happened: peace and quiet. Beyond the occasional fluttering of the shoot, no honking cars, birds chirping, or even ambient city sounds. Almost therapeutic.
It’s funny what we humans do to feel alive. Ironic that it mostly happens when defying death. We drive recklessly, swim with sharks, ride roller coasters, and jump from planes. In short, we’re looking for that quick adrenaline hit. We want to feel alive.
Isn’t it funny that we can just know we’re alive, but we relentlessly pursue the feeling of being alive?
Unfortunately, we’re beginning to expect visceral experiences in the realms of faith and leadership, regardless of whether we tend to be predominantly “thinkers” or “feelers.” The low risk, high reward environments we’re accustomed are getting us hooked on feeling. Anything. And we’re on the hunt for high engagement, low risk.
Not that it’s wrong to feel—or to experience emotional highs. But when feeling something become the determining measurement as to whether an experience happened or not—or is credible, it’s like jumping from a plane without a parachute.
Sure, I jumped from the plane for those few glorious seconds of free fall; however, when that ended, I learned there was so much more to the skydiving experience. And it’s an excellent reminder for me as someone who can tend to start projects and wane on its completion: there is something more on the other side of the high.
For me, beginning something new is like those first few moments experiencing the acceleration of my body toward Earth. But eventually, the cord must be pulled. What was started must be finished—whether it’s what we signed up for or not.
Peter struggled with this on the night Jesus was betrayed. He was all zealous saying, “Even if everyone else deserts You, I will never desert You.” Spoiler alert: Peter fell asleep and soon denied knowing Jesus. Had it been a thing, Peter might have even “ghosted” Jesus.
To be clear: I’m not saying I would have acted any different than Peter; his incident does make me assess my own faith and leadership motives:
Am I pursuing Christ because I’ve been captivated by the grace of the Gospel and truly seek to love God and love His people? Or do I just enjoy the emotional high of a powerful worship set and clever preaching that make my life better?
Am I leading in alignment to what Fred Rogers says, “You don’t set out to be rich and famous; you set out to be helpful”? Or because I revel in the applause and boost of the feel-good chemicals when I achieve something important to me?
Scripture says Peter “wept bitterly” over his choices. I might need some tissues.
What does this mean for you? What does this mean for me? In one hyphenated word: follow-through.
I want to encourage you, it’s not too late. Peter would later jump from a boat and swim to the resurrected Savior. There Jesus reminded Peter of his calling—not his past. And Peter followed-through… and so can you.
Maybe you don’t “feel” it anymore, and you’re tempted to “ghost” on that relationship, new job, or the volunteer position you just signed up for: follow-through.
It matters. Are there times to quit? Sure, you can read my article on that subject here. What you’re fighting for is something more significant than the task itself. It’s a battle for your character. What you choose today will determine where you land tomorrow—hopefully securely strapped to a parachute.
When you’re tempted to pull the plug rather than the cord, consider these:
- Remember why you started. In our fast-paced, over-committed lifestyle, it is easy to become bogged down into the work itself. When you lose sight of the big picture, climb.
- Talk to someone. I find it ironic that we share so much about our personal life on cyberspace, but so few people truly know us. Who can sit down at Taco Bell over a cheap burrito and shake some sense into us? Put down your phone and find your people!
- Stop starting new projects. Again, I can easily fall into this trap—it fun! But what happens? Right, you end up with more plates to keep spinning, and instead of making progress you find yourself overwhelmed and binge-watching Netflix—so I’m told (wink).
- Finish something. We actually get a feel-good chemical hit when we complete things. And that helps motivate us to keep moving forward. It’s why experts say to make your bed every morning: start off with an easy win, and it compounds from there.
Rory Vaden reminds us that successful people “have all had to do things they didn’t feel like doing in order to get where they are.” We must resist the conditioning that we “deserve immediate satisfaction” by choosing “hard right over the easy wrong. Consistently.” (Come on, you know I’m going to quote Craig Groeschel. “Successful people do consistently what others do occasionally.”
So, what will you do to stand out from others – to make your mark and to reach your God-given leadership capacity? It’s time to pull the cord and finish what you started. From this day forward choose the hard right over the easy wrong and do it consistently. Then and only then will you experience that which goes beyond feelings: the unexpected.