The paradigm I use for the personal growth process is meandering versus leaping. Meandering is how most of us do it most of the time. Thinking about change, hoping for change, wanting to be on the other side of whatever’s between us and change. Walking the shore of our own Red Sea but not sure how to cross and (secretly or not) waiting for it to part.
Hint: For things to actually change, we need to act. Need to do something more than pace, mutter, and whine about the scary yikes behind and in front of us. We need to leap in.
This week’s story, the fleeing Israelites standing at the edge of the sea, is also about faith. The commentary says that the waters did not part until one guy went in and the water reached his nostrils. That’s how much you have to want change.
Because our lives rarely include literal whips, it’s easy to take our time. We accommodate, and when faced with a scary unknown don’t always feel eager or ready to leap. Too often we let ourselves off the hook, finding important things that need to be done first. We forget one of the biggest lessons of this process: how good it will feel once when we’ve let go of fear.
Sometimes I tell people who don’t think they’re ready to google “countdown clock” and pick a future date. Simply watching the seconds tick away, and imagining another day, week, month, or year without change is all it takes to move you.
The good news and bad news is the same: the known will indeed become your past. And your future will be less predictable. But now’s your chance to risk that and to welcome liberation. Because it really is time.
Your own Red Sea is no more dangerous than your wilingness to risk whatever will happen next.
Lawrence Kushner tells a great story about when he and his wife vacationed in a wilderness park. The tourists were abuzz about bears. Before hiking, they ask a ranger if there were bears where they were headed. He answered: If there were no bears, it wouldn’t be a wilderness, would it?
If you always knew you’d be safe, you’d never have to learn about confronting fear. You’d never get to experience the intense, profound, and wonderful sense of liberation that leaping brings. The satisfaction from challenging yourself to stop pacing and jump in, from risking a new life, from embracing both faith and the unknown.
If you trust yourself enough to risk change, you will find that freedom. You’ll be inspired to face whatever next comes next. Yes, there will be new challenges and new lessons. The cycle will begin again, though the nouns and verbs will change. But you’ll have earned the knowing that comes from what you’ve done. And you’ll be stronger and braver the next time.
Exercise: Do one thing this week that feels bold.
PS The longer version of this dvar was my first Torah talk. Click to hear or read it.