“The scariness of manhood to males may be symbolically seen in the many stories of indigenous Australian boys who ran away and hid in the bush as the time of initiation approached.” ~ Michael Leunig
One of the most recent crazes in men’s groups has been to take their sons through an initiation, or rite of passage. Cultures all around the world understand the significance of the passing into manhood, but some take it to extremes.
In Naghol, a town located on the southern part of Pentecost Island, Vanuatu, boys passing into manhood must perform something called “land diving.” Similar to bungee jumping, young men jump off wooden towers 20 to 30 meters (66 to 98 ft.) high, with two tree vines wrapped around their ankles. Unlike bungee jumping, land diving is done without any safety equipment, except for the vines. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the G-force those young men experience at their lowest point in the dive is the greatest experienced in the non-industrialized world by humans.
The origin of land diving is described in a legend of a woman who was dissatisfied with her husband, Tamalie. The claim is that the woman was upset that her husband was too vigorous regarding his sexual desires, so she ran away into the forest. In hot pursuit, her husband followed so she climbed a banyan tree. Intoxicated by her, Tamalie climbed after her, and so she tied lianas to her ankles and jumped, and miraculously survived. Wanting the woman, Tamalie jumped after her, but his need for the woman clouded his thinking and he did not tie lianas to himself. The story ended when Tamalie plummeted to the earth, hit the ground, and died. These young men perform the original land diving, vines attached to their ankles, so that they will never be tricked again.
MY FIRST RODEO: TAKING THE LEAP
The year was 1974 – the year of our church denomination’s national youth convention in Denver, CO. It was a long drive from Pennsylvania to Colorado, especially for a thirteen-year-old kid who was new to the youth group and deathly afraid of women. Sometime that first night, some of the older kids decided to play a game in the back of the bus. In my parents’ generation, they weren’t allowed to play cards or go roller skating because, well, you know, things might happen. This was the 1970’s, fresh out of the 60’s. Our youth group’s favorite game on youth night? Twister! Seriously! You can imagine the look on my face when I was asked to play after having a twisted piano teacher for years. I was usually the first one out of the game, intentionally.
In 1974, we didn’t have iPads or cell phones; we had handheld transistor radios. Mine was black and white. When one of the girls asked to borrow it, I was quick to let her use it, as I really wanted to fit in. What I didn’t know was what she was going to do with this radio. What can happen by letting a girl borrow your radio, right? Wrong. She came up with a game called “Spin the Radio.” Hmmm … never heard of this game. Maybe when it stopped spinning, whoever the strap on the side pointed at would get to choose the next radio station. Uhhhh, no. The only difference between Spin the Radio and Spin the Bottle was that you use a radio. WHAT??? My response? No stinking way!!! I’m not playing! The laughter in the back of the bus erupted somewhere on a highway in Missouri surrounded by corn fields. As the evening light was closing in, I’m not sure which was redder, my face or the sun setting in the western sky. This was my first rodeo, and I just fell off the horse.
Peer pressure is a dangerous thing. It can make young men jump off wooden towers with vines around their ankles, or force young boys who didn’t even have peach fuzz on their upper lip yet to kiss girls in the back of the church bus. Why was I starting to feel as if my pants had just been pulled down in front of all these girls? What were my choices?
Taking the risk to find your true self will probably mean taking the biggest leap of your life. It won’t come easy because the enemy will fight you every step of the climb. If the foundations on which you are trying to build your life are your performance or the opinions of others, it’s only a matter of time before the storms of life smash everything around you. If it’s built on solid rock, it can withstand the most ferocious attacks. If not, you will constantly find yourself hiding, ashamed in the backseat of a bus, or like the young deer hunter, frozen with buck fever unable to pull the trigger. You’ll constantly be waiting for someone or something to rescue you. You get to choose. You will have blind spots, you will make mistakes, but you’re not alone.
It’s time to come out of the shadows. It’s time to take the leap. Right Now.
“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT)
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.” (Mathew 5:5 MSG)
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)
Where in my life are these verses connecting right now, and what is the Holy Spirit showing me through them?