Braver on the way back


If I ever have kids, I want them to climb trees and bike down hills and do flips off the high dive. To get scrapes and scratches and scars to prompt stories for the rest of their lives. It’s not that I’m hoping my future children are reckless daredevils, and it’s entirely possible that I’ll sing a different tune when I’m holding my first precious and fragile and non-hypothetical bundle of joy, but here’s the thing: a little risk goes a long way in the pursuit of an abundant life.


My mom and I hiked a waterfall last week. It starts with a half a mile jaunt along a rocky, slippery gully, one that requires water shoes to navigate (even if they are two sizes too small) and ends in the most magnificent manner. We’ve hiked the path a few times, but we’d never seen it quite so wild. What was once a slow, quiet stream along smooth stones had transformed into a full, rushing current with spots too deep to see the bottom.


We started off cautiously as we ambled along the streambed, testing the water as we stayed in the shallows. Trees both tall and felled shaded our path and provided fun obstacles along the way. A couple of girls we’d seen at the start were now making their way back, complete with their sweet golden retriever that held not a stick or a branch or a bough but a log in its widened mouth. Soon, every turn around the bend held the hope of our destination. Is that it? Not yet, not yet, not yet.


And then—we saw it. In fact we heard it first, for over the steep cliff came a rushing, forceful, unrestricted torrent of water. I marveled at its strength and thought back to my memory of a modest trickle in years past. We approached our formidable destination quickly, eager to come face to face with its might. And mighty it was. We whooped and squealed and belly laughed in the watery onslaught, daring to step into its center, pushed and pummeled and hungry for more.


Then we’d retreat to the side, laying our faces against the warm rock face, overcome with sheer joy. We sighed and smiled with closed eyes as we stood in the knee-deep water, too distracted by our exhilaration to notice the cold. Laughter communicated what words simply couldn’t. We felt drunk, but naturally, wholesomely, in a God-sent way that made us truly free. It was a delight.


And as we started the descent in just our suits, having thrown our dry layers of clothing over our shoulders, it was as if something had changed. I felt at once exhausted and invigorated. I clambered quickly over rocks and boulders with a new temerity. I cared not for the pools of watery darkness as I boldly plunged my foot down, feeling for the bottom that I couldn’t see. I felt as if my skin were somehow primed for scrapes and bruises, expecting they’d inevitably come in my happy rush along the stream.


I was braver on the way back. My ascent had been marked with caution and pause, my legs moving carefully and my hands outstretched at each big step. I had stopped from time to time to consider the best way, the one that looked manageable and somewhat safe. But now, I moved swiftly and freely, more familiar with each rock bed and more willing to take risks.


That waterfall day has propelled me on. It’s made me remember the goodness of bravery and the pleasure of adventure. There’s something to be said for venturing carefully into the unknown, yes, but it is altogether thrilling to reach that pinnacle point, throwing caution to the wind and embracing the mystery, the risk, and the truth that I am guided by a hand unseen.


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