I can still remember the first time I ever told a girl that I liked her. It was a beautiful winter's day with crisp clean air that made each breath feel like I'd taken fresh-mint gum. I was driving to the lucky lady's house (I know - this was the first time I had ever declared my heart to a girl, and I already had my drivers license. I was a late bloomer) with a teenage body full of emotions.
My knees were knocking, my armpits were a sweaty mess, my palms were damp - and this was all just from the anticipation! As I pulled up by her house, I continued to remind myself, "Do this. Anything is possible. Who knows what will happen?" - and then proceeded to take about fifteen minutes to muster up the courage to leave my car.
After finally walking into the house and talking to the object of my affection, the moment of truth arrived. I could continue with my attempts at amusing small talk, or I could take the plunge and declare my feelings. The emotions were almost over-whelming and in a sudden moment of male bravado, I took the plunge and shared my heart.
Although in my head I like to imagine myself in this moment as a Ryan Gosling like romantic, in truth I probably came across more like Peewee Herman on steroids. Regardless, I had done it.
Although the result of my journey that day aren't crucial to this article (plot spoiler: she didn't feel the same way...), I can remember driving away that day and feeling remarkably alive. Sure, the adrenaline was still coursing through my body and my internal temperature was dangerously high, but there was something deeper going on. In that moment,
I felt like I had truly lived and caught a glimpse of what life was about. When caught on the edge between fear and excitement, I had taken the plunge and chosen the way of honesty, vulnerability and the unknown. Little did I know, that it felt so good.
I'm Not That Boring
Since writing my last article for CT Australia (on the joys of boredom), I have been afraid that people will just be thinking it was a self-justifying piece written by a boring individual from the heartland of the North Island. So, in an effort to balance the spectrum and also in a thinly guised attempt to make myself appear interesting, I want to focus on the joy of excitement - a discussion that cannot happen without also examining the paralysing nature of fear.
From a scientific perspective, there is little that separates excitement from fear. Once we've been confronted with a situation that incites fear or excitement in our bodies, the hypothalamus releases hearty cocktail of chemicals throughout our bloodstream, creating high blood pressure, dilated pupils and tense muscles.
These feelings are identical for both fear and excitement - but what is difference is our response. When we feel these familiar sensations - a pounding heart and sweaty palms - do we stop and retreat from the situation, or take a deep breath and move forward? That is the difference between fear and excitement.
Jumping for Joy, Paralysed by Fear
Now, I am not writing this article to motivate young men to pour their hearts out at the feet of their beloved, but we live in a society that takes an interesting approach to excitement and fear. We spend millions of dollars a year in the pursuit of adrenaline, with horror movies and bungee jumps used as experiences to discover a new high and to challenge our self-perceptions.
Yet, the increase in loneliness and heart-breaking increase in divorce rates over the past forty years also reveal a deep fear among people to take relational risks, practice honesty and pursue commitment, in the name of love. Statistics show that most relationships don't end in a screaming blaze of glory, but slowly chill to death as neither partner will take the risk of being vulnerable, instead being paralysed by fear of the unknown.
American pastor Charles Stanley described this paralysis as a gradual process, saying, "Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins." We will confront our fear of heights and speed, but rarely do we confront the more direct fear of being real. When given the opportunity to speak genuine love, care or concern to other's lives, we often retreat into the safety of the known.
The Relational Bungee
I was at Lake Taupo Bungee one day - just watching, may I add - when I got talking to a young tourist who was about to take the plunge. He informed me of all the exciting adventure sports he had tried, and I could tell that this was a brave young man. As he headed off to take the plunge, he said to me, "I've been searching for the biggest rush I can find. I haven't found it yet - I hope this is it!".
Around the same time, one of my flatmates was a cardiac care nurse. He had the responsibility of caring for many patients as they went through the last few days of their lives. In this privileged position, he was able to observe that in people's last moments, their biggest regrets are always with their relationships and the opportunities that they did not take. They regret being too fearful to have been open, honest and loving with people around them, and instead have settled for a relational life of normality. â€¨â€¨
A God Who Takes Risks
When reading the narrative of Scripture, it becomes immediately apparent that God is calling us to a way that is more alive and real than in our fallen state. This is a God who stops at nothing in the pursuit of love, even becoming one of us to win us back to Him, an exciting love story that is full of drama.
Similarly, God speaks highly of those who took a relational risk with Him and chose to move forward with excitement, rather than be paralysed with fear. I think of the adulterous woman, who honours Jesus' feet with perfume, her tears and her hair - taking a risk, while all the others watched. Or the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years - and took a risk to grab Jesus to find healing. When discovered, her excitement became fear - the fear of being noticed - but Jesus spoke peace and love, affirming her risky actions of vulnerability and hope.
We are all called to join in this exciting role of God's pursuit of His creation - a role that will add colour, zest, honesty, love and excitement to life. For sure, there are times when this vocation will be boring and monotonous - not all service is meant to be exciting - but when viewed from God's big perspective, we can see that we are part of a story that is more dynamic than we could dream up on our own. This story calls us to take the risk of love and honesty, regardless of where this journey may take us.
For Paul, we read of a life that was full of colour. He had long moments in prison, but he had deep, emotional relationships with brothers and sisters around the Mediterranean. His journey of love had him making tents with servants, then getting beaten by soldiers, studying for years and inciting riots in cities. Excitement was not his goal - Christ was - yet in his pursuit of God and His love, he discovered excitement along the way.
Billy Graham once described 'romance' as, "Excitement, adventure, and something extremely real. Romance should last a lifetime." My failed attempts at young romance taught me something much deeper about the romance of God and life, that He beckons us to join with. A life of excitement, a life of adventure and a life of extreme reality.
Jeremy Suisted is a full-time management student, part-time creative consultant and is scared of cockroaches, under-cooked chicken and poorly designed bridges.
Jeremy Suisted previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-suisted.html