I don’t know why particularly. I wouldn’t refer to myself as a thrill-seeker (unless, of course, you count mixing four kinds of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream together in preparation for a Lord of the Rings Director’s Cut marathon; but even that I can do in my pyjamas). I planned this long-awaited trip to Wales and it seems that I was so close to the edge. Why not step off?
The first major leap came after I signed up for a coasteering session off the coast of north Anglesey. For those of you who are new to outdoor freaky fun, coasteering is a fancy name for insane cliff-jumping. We climbed onto some of Britain’s oldest rocks, dating back to the Neolithic era, learned how to safely grab on without being torn apart by barnacles, and we jumped into the multitudes of green that is the Irish Sea.
Only, the jumps kept getting bigger.
You’d think that after my first big jump I would have felt confident, that I would have conquered my fear in some profound way that I could then share with you today.
Legs were jello.
But I jumped all the same. Through the dizzying panic, the chill, and the racing heart, I jumped off into space and flew free-falling into the ocean. Bobbing along in that clear gemstone water afterwards had to be one of the most peaceful feelings I’ve ever encountered.
The second major leap came after I booked my poor, weary body to fly down the fastest zip line in the world in Bethesda, Wales. After being meticulously arranged in what seemed like an eighty-two point harness, and outfitted with a helmet and head cam, I was pointed towards a hut overlooking a turquoise lake at the bottom of an old quarry. This isn’t so bad, I thought.
Then the guy asked me to lie down.
On a red gurney.
Head pointed to outer space.
I remember suddenly losing my God-given ability to swallow, although amazingly enough my body did remember how badly it needed to pee all of a sudden. Lying down, I was hooked up to the zip line, the gurney beneath me lowered away, and I was left to hang there. In space. Waiting.
“Three, two, one…!” The staff at the top cried. And I was flying again. Pushed off a cliff.
Arriving safely at the other side, I felt pretty proud of myself. That was until the staff member who pulled me down smiled and asked how enjoyed the slow zip line. Slow? Apparently, the lower zip line is just for warmups. We were then herded into the back of a red truck, hauled up the mountain, and lined up at another hut.
Face down on the gurney.
Attached to the line.
Hung out in space hundreds of feet above any sane level of survival.
Yup. I need to pee now!
“Three, two, one…!”
And I was released. And I flew down the mountain at eighty-eighty miles per hour. Apparently the record is one hundred-twenty, but I was pretty proud of myself for zooming at the speed of a car on a Canadian highway.
The third major leap happened when I arrived on the ancient pilgrimage site of Bardsey Island. Known as the Island of 20,000 Saints, as is reputed to be one of the eternal resting places of the Holy Grail, I spent a couple days here in quiet, in nature, and at times with a spiritual director.
Up the one and only mountain on the island, I could see everything — Wales, Ireland, and the endless blue of infinity. My lonely cottage faced due west and I could see the massiveness of the sunset each night. You would think that this leap would feel safer given that both my feet remained on solid ground. But I was away from the mainland on a small patch of rock without wifi or data access.
And I was sharing space with ancient rock, and walking paths that had been trod by thousands of people before me — kings, priests, druids, peasants, pastors, adults and children. The enormity of history of this little land as well as its ruggedness spent me spiralling into another kind of space.
There are times when the world pushes me off the edge; there are times when I choose to jump; and there are times when I hover between the realms of what feels like sanity and insanity. I can’t claim that God suddenly induced a quick delivery of courage within me — that certainly wouldn’t be true — but neither is that true of real life. The courage grew when I kept choosing to get back up.
Climb that next cliff.
Be clipped to the higher zip line.
Step up on to ancient paths.
Sometimes I free fall, other times I have a strangely secure fly through the air, and other times it feels like all of the above every other second. But when I choose to let go of the safety of the top and move at light speed through the air, I discover perspectives that were, until now, impossible. I discover that limitations I’d placed on myself were, perhaps, not that limiting after all. I discover that God is in the view, the perspective, and the ancient-future pathways both in the air and on land.