Imagine standing on top of the high dive for the first time. You are scared out of your mind, certain that all that awaits you below is certain death. Sure, you have seen others make this jump hundreds of times, but you are certain it will be the end of you. Your toes curl around the end of the platform, you are searching, racking your brain for a way out of this moment. You look back behind you and there are your friends. They are urging you on, jeering you, telling you to just jump. There is no way back. Resolved to go through with this ludicrous idea you step off the end of the platform and you are falling. Within an instant there is nothing but water, the rest of the world has disappeared. You sink quickly, lost in depths that have long terrified you. But then, just as quickly as you sink you are rising. You burst forth from the water and find that you are alive. Indeed you are alive, but you aren’t the same. Nothing could ever be the same again. Now you are truly alive.
Late in the night on March 22, 1995 I stepped off of the high dive and plunged into the depths of grace for first time. It may have actually been early on the morning of the 23rd, it is so hard to remember the details of that week. This I know for certain, the whirlwind of God’s grace, his revival Spirit, touched down on Sunday night March 19 on the campus of Wheaton College. Unlike other storms it wasn’t broadcast in advance. In fact I was caught completely by surprise at its arrival. I was sitting in my dorm room playing cards with some friends. A friend walked into the room and said that he had just gotten a call from another guy on our floor saying that God was doing something powerful down at the World Evangelism Fellowship worship service. We were intrigued enough or maybe just bored enough to drop what we were doing and go check it out.
Stepping into Pierce Chapel that night the very breath I had to speak was taken from me. Walking into the work of God that was taking place rendered me speechless. The Spirit of God was thick, like stepping into a tropical rainforest. The air was heavy and alive. I just came in, sat down and shut up. I began to listen to other students confess their sins, I began to pray, I stood on the end of the high dive and began to look out at the world.
For three more nights, gathered for hours, staying up light into the night, praying with friends, singing, listening, wondering, marveling, trying to understand, I stood there at the end of the high dive, just looking out. Others were taking the plunge. They were dropping off the high dive with humility or cannonballing off with enthusiasm. But I just sat there. I didn’t know what else to do.
Finally, sometime in the middle of the night on Wednesday night, having sat still, not knowing what to do as the hurricane force winds of the Spirit changed the complexion of the world around me, I got up and got in line at a microphone. I don’t remember this part of the story, I don’t remember making a conscious choice at all. But soon I was there, standing at at microphone, in front of thousands of my closest friends. My toes curled around the edge of the board, I wasn’t sure if I could make the jump. I was sure death and judgement awaited me. But seeing no alternative I stepped off into the nothingness and began to fall.
I stood there and I began to talk about the real me. Much of my life up until that point had been lived in fear of discovery. I portrayed a certain image to the world of who I was. But I lived each day in fear that my parents, my friends, my teachers, and most of all God would find out who I really was. When they did I was sure it would end in rejection and pain. But as I spoke the truth about who I really was, plunging deeper and deeper into the dark waters, something began to happen. I began to rise, I broke through the surface and found that I had landed in the grace of God.
Coming out of this time of confession I was surrounded and embraced by my friends. Those were such good friends. We were so young, I was 18 at the time, none of us older than about 20, but they were dear to me. They prayed for me, they embraced me, they loved me. They had seen the real me, heard the worst that I had to offer and they loved me still. How much more did I discover the love of my Heavenly Father that night. That night he told me that he had loved me all along, fully aware of who I was. He had just been waiting for me to take the plunge into his grace and discover who he really was.
That week, 20 years ago now, changed the course of my life. Each day since has been an exploration of God’s grace. So now I spend my time encouraging others up onto the high dive, urging them to the edge, exhorting them to take the plunge and discover life anew.