Life in Community

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Life in Community

Be A Daredevil

March 18, 2017 by

Shana on a balancing beam as a child

My dad’s a daredevil. As a college student in the 80s, he hiked Yosemite, grinning for the camera with his legs swinging over the edge of Half Dome, the ground more than a vertical mile below, and his overgrown sandy hair streaming out from under his 49er’s cap. He scaled Yosemite Falls and balanced along the jumbled rocks at its crest. He’s climbed to the tops of numerous cell towers. He rode a Harley Davidson and skydived out of an airplane. He’s my childhood hero.

One afternoon when I was ten, he took my little brother and me hiking along the prohibited but exhilarating edge of a cliff near our home. We walked quickly behind Dad’s strides, but suddenly I stopped – there was a huge crevasse gaping in front of me, and Dad was already standing on the other side, his arms crossed, watching.

“Dad! Dad!” I wailed, “Wait!”

“I’m not going anywhere. Come on over.”

“But I can’t, it’s huge, I’ll fall in, I’ll break my leg, I’ll never make it, come help me!”

His voice was calm and insistent: “Take a runoff and go for it.”

I backed up a few steps, eyes on him. He nodded. I swallowed and started running. And then I was over.

The next crevasse was a little smaller; my dad and I jumped over easily, and my brother followed after a few confident words. To keep our momentum going, we ran, and soon we were sailing over the frequent fissures like pros.

Shana with her dad on a roller coaster 

This incident is typical of my dad. Whether encouraging us to climb higher in the tree, try the crazier ride at the fair, ice-skate faster, or sled down the steeper slope, my dad always pushed my four siblings and me to be daring.

Why? Partly because if we learned to conquer small daily fears, we’d have the guts to navigate scarier situations.

Not wanting to hinder my dad from teaching us to be brave and daring, my mom usually stayed down at the bottom of the cliffs, where she wouldn’t have to worry about us daredevils. When she did worry (as moms do best), my dad would reassure her with, “It’s okay – they have a good sense of self-preservation.”

But I think his real purpose was not to produce adrenaline junkies or tough athletes, but rather to lead us to the fearlessness that is vital for followers of Christ.

Shana going over a jump while sledding as a child

In our family, we often sang a song about the biblical Daniel, who faced an unbelieving king, a hostile foreign nation, and a den of hungry lions with bold certainty in God’s sovereignty. The song included these lines: “Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone / Dare to have a purpose firm, dare to make it known.” By singing these words with us, and by encouraging us to be daring in myriad little ways, my parents were preparing us to stand firm in life’s bigger battles. I’m glad my dad taught me not only to look before I leap, but to actually jump; I’ve thought back to his cliff-top lesson when facing decisions that require a leap of faith.

Whenever I’m confronted by a daunting situation, I thank God for parents who taught me what it means to be daring, and try to live up to what I know. I’ve (mostly) outgrown tree climbing now, but speaking up for my beliefs in a room of people who couldn’t care less can be just as petrifying as stepping out onto a scraggy branch high up in a cedar. Sometimes even saying the simple words “I’m sorry” or “Please help me” takes as much courage as jumping a cliff-top crevasse. Living out Jesus’ teachings takes guts, and I hope we’re all daredevil enough to do it.

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About the author

Shana Burleson

Shana Burleson

Shana Burleson works as an editor for the Bruderhof’s publishing house, Plough, and as a middle school teacher in the Fox...

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  • I couldn't agree more. I pray daily for strength to keep my heart open amidst all my fears of being hurt or misunderstood. I think overcoming those fears and feeling the love of Jesus through those in my community is one of the most rewarding things, it just takes a lot courage and daredevilness to do it. I'm finding the more I jump, the easier it gets. Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed reading!

    Kristina Hartz