Author:Stacey Burkholder

Some years ago I traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina for a large student ministry conference with my fresh out of  bible college, and full of new ideas, youth intern Taylor. It was the type of conference that draws thousands of attendees and naturally some of the best speakers and leaders in the country. Thumbing through the schedule and catalog I realized that one of my early hero’s in ministry would be speaking at a main session as well as a breakout session. Taylor and I marked the session as one of our “must see” breakouts of the week then went our separate ways so we could soak up as much wisdom as possible, then compare notes later.

panther falls (2)
Panther Falls Buena Vista, VA

On the day of the much anticipated breakout session Taylor and I both arrived into the already buzzing and quickly filling room. I headed for my customary seat near the back of the room, a seat safely located away from the crowd and far enough from the stage to buffer me from any chance questions or other interactions with the very engaging speaker. As I settled in to take notes and the speaker began to hit his stride I noticed that Taylor had disappeared, then to my amazement showed up on the front row, right in the middle of the action! I remember feeling a little annoyed and a little jealous of his boldness but looked forward to hearing about his experience. The speaker was amazing and did not disappoint, as we all applauded and stood to leave I saw Taylor moving, not back to where the exits were, but forward onto the stage area. In a few moments he was in full conversation with a person I would never have dreamed of speaking with. To make matters worse, at the end of the conversation this man that I had read, learned from and respected for all the years prior, grabs Taylor and puts him in a full on bear hug…unbelievable, lousy interns.

“fear robs us of the unpredictable magic of life”

I discovered something that day, something I have never forgotten since, fear robs us of the unpredictable magic of life! The best stories and the richest lives are written and lived by the men and women that have looked fear in the eye, and with all its promises of failure, embarrassment, and dismay, acted anyway. Now that’s not to say that to be fearless is to be reckless and careless, rather fearlessness is characterized by people that carefully and confidently lean on a promise penned by the hand of an ancient king driven by the Spirit of God Himself. King David was the most  famous of all the ancient Israelite kings and likely lived one of the greatest adventures ever experienced. He would write;

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Psalm 23:4

Later that summer Taylor and I would take our students to a famous swimming hole and waterfall appropriately named Panther Falls. It had rained heavily the night before and the falls were unusually high. Now, before that summer started I would have packed the students up and waited for a safer day but with my new found philosophy of life I decided to seize the day! Taylor and I both fearlessly toed the edge of the rushing water and after some discussion decided I should go first.

“I believe God wants us to break free of fears suffocating grasp and experience life to the fullest!”

With my wide eyed youth group watching I strapping on a life jacket, grabbed a cheap boogey board for good measure, then muttered a few hail Mary’s and jumped headlong into the rushing torrent. There was a short period of joy which quickly gave way to serious thoughts that this was a terrible idea. Half way down the rapid I was dumped into a underwater hole worn deep in the river bed which jammed one of my ankles securely in the rocks. For the next moments I literally flapped under the rushing water like a sheet in the wind. By Gods grace I finally broke free and bobbed to the surface with ankle throbbing and wide eyed students staring in disbelief. For some reason Taylor never took his turn, and looking back, this opportunity may have fallen into the aforementioned reckless and careless category, however…I have told that story numerous times and have used it to illustrate important life lessons even biblical truth. I believe God wants us to break free of fears suffocating grasp and experience life at its fullest!

Since that summer I have tried to live life differently, doing my best to cast off fear and to experience the magic of faith mixed with courage. Oh and Taylor, I imagine he has gone on to do what men like him do, having changed countless lives and experienced life at its best, he is probably off training lions, or running for public office.