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Friday, 08 November 2019 07:00

God Called Me.... A story from Berna

 2019.72.just jump.main blog

So it would be fair to say that I’m not the most adventurous soul in the world. I have childhood memories of riding my bike down hills with the brakes on, being too chicken to try the 7.5m diving platform at the aquatic centre and even being scared of the high jump bar at Little Athletics.

As an adult my three most death defying feats have included jumping off a 3m high cliff in the middle of a cave while black water rafting in New Zealand, walking along rope bridges in India and negotiating the crazy traffic in Bangladesh in a car with no doors. No bungy jumping, skydiving or swimming with sharks for this little duck.

So it was always with some level of nervousness and trepidation that I would approach my role as a supervisor on the high ropes course on the annual Year 9 camp during the three years I worked as Youth Minister at a high school. The encourager in me wanted to see all the students give it a go and push themselves, but the realist in me could totally understand why there were students who were freaking out to the point of tears at the prospect of walking around on tightropes several metres off the ground.

At some point in proceedings, one student would invariably look at me and ask, “Are you going to have a go, Miss Toohey?” to which the only appropriate response was, “Yes, I’m just letting you guys go first.”

My final year of attending Year 9 camp was also the year before I joined the Sisters. Having successfully conquered the ‘leap of faith’ on the high ropes course both years earlier, I was actually feeling okay about the prospect of scaling up a ten metre log pole in a full body harness, standing upright and then launching off to (hopefully) grab hold of the trapeze bar dangling a metre or so from the top of the pole. That was until one bring little face approached me with the news, “We’re doing it blindfolded this year, Miss!”

Not to be outdone by a pack of teenagers, I donned the blindfold and harness and started up the pole, made easier by the fact I couldn’t see the ground below me. It wasn’t until I had to stand up and jump for the bar that I started to freak out somewhat, as being blindfolded meant that I actually had lost my sense of which direction the trapeze bar was now located. I hesitated significantly, staying put on my pole for at least two countdowns of “3, 2, 1” from the voices below. Then somewhere ten metres beneath me came a little encouraging voice urging me: “Just jump!”

I realised in that moment that this leap of faith into the blackness and unknown was a little mirror of the step I’d be taking just a few months later as I entered religious life. I didn’t know exactly which direction life would take me beyond that point, but I knew that if I didn’t just jump then I would never know if it was the life for me!

This realisation gave me that extra little motivation I needed to launch off towards the trapeze bar. I didn’t fulfil my mission to grab the bar, but was instead caught by my harness and lowered safely to the ground. The lesson that has always remained with me is that you can discern your direction all you like, but there will come a moment when you need to put aside your fears and doubts and just jump.

Berna Toohey