A LEAP OF
You know what changes things?
What changes everything? Faith. Faith changes everything.
At this moment, all the old women in my hometown are
rejoicing as they read these words. I can just hear them.
“Finally! Finally, that dirty little rotten sinner has
finally seen the light!” Not exactly. Don’t
roll your socks up just yet, sisters. I’m still the same
dirty rotten sinner I always was, and I still cannot stand
people who tell me how to think about the Divine, but I am
doing a little better. In short, I’m just what I’ve always
been – I’m still a Methodist.
Looking back on my life however – and watching the
lives of others - an understanding of something so vital and
so important has slowly made itself felt. We must have
faith in the Divine, certainly. We can’t do anything
without that. But it is also so necessary to have faith in
ourselves. Such a vital key and so critical - to have faith
in ourselves. The problem is – there’s no reason to at
first. That’s the problem. There’s no reason to at first.
That’s where faith comes in. We have to take a leap – a
leap of faith – and believe that we can! At first,
that’s hard to do.
Let’s say - at forty - Jim decides to become a team
roper. He’s ridden horses in his life and can even swing a
rope a little, but has never roped a steer on a running
horse. He’s still athletic at his age and decides to give
it a whirl. So Jim goes to a friend’s house where all his
buddies have been roping for years. When he begins, it’s a
scary thing. Horse is running fast, steer is running fast,
and Jim’s rope is a snarled mess. Everybody is laughing,
Jim’s laughing too, trying to act like all this is not
making him feel like a fool, and the day goes down hill from
there. Once home - in the safety of his den - he pops a
beer and grab some chips and thinks, “Well, that’s the
last time I’ll do something that stupid. How could I
have thought I could do this at my age?”
Or let’s take a student who is failing. We’ll call him
Joey. He’s nineteen, and on the rare occasions Joey shows
up for class, he sits at the back of the room with his head
down and eyes on the floor. Joey doesn’t listen because he
knows how all this will turn out. He never takes a note and
never takes a handout home because he knows it’s useless.
And for goodness sakes, he never reads the notes before a
test…and Joey makes Fs.
If you ask Joey why this is happening, he will have a
“I’m just stupid,” he
laughs. “I’ve never been very good in school. Just don’t
have the brains.”
Is that the reason the young person is not doing well
in school? Is that the cause of his failure - because he
lacks ability? It is not. This student is making what
psychologists call an “attribution error.” So is Jim. They
both think they can explain to us why they are failing, but
their explanations are wrong!
What if Jim and Joey approached these tasks
differently? What if Jim found a friend who had enough
sense not to put him on a green horse – and rope blistering
fast cows - the first time he ever tried to rope? What if
they did ground work – roped a dummy for thirty days -
before ever mounting a horse? Then, what if Jim’s friend
put him on a seasoned partner and roped a mechanical steer
at slow speed for sixty days – then roped slow and medium
cattle from horseback for six months? How do you think Jim
would feel about his ability to rope then?
And Joey? What if we could somehow explain all this to
Joey – this is the hard part for us parents, teachers,
grandparents, etc. – in a manner he could understand
. What if we could reach inside Joey and tell him he is
seeing the world incorrectly? What if we could convince
Joey his real problem is he lacks faith in himself?
Joey is wrong when he says he’s stupid. Joey know
all the parts of a tractor – and when one is not working,
Joey can take the tractor completely apart and put it all
back together – and make it work. Anybody that can do that
can get a PhD easy. Joey is not stupid. In certain
environments, Joey feels competent. In others, he does
not. We just have to somehow get Joey to see that the
principles of success – the principles of thinking correctly
- work anywhere in the universe. One of those principles is
to have faith. How do you do that? By believing in the
evidence of things not seen. You have to believe first.
Reminds me of my friend, Sharon. As a young woman,
Sharon lost a husband in Viet Nam. Recovering from that –
as best as anyone can recover from something like that –
Sharon began again, and years later found herself married
with two small children. Sitting in her little apartment in
Denver one day, she heard the mailman on the porch. To her
delight, the hometown newspaper had arrived from Texas.
Settling in with a hot cup of coffee, Sharon planned on a
leisurely read to catch up on all the news in the place she
missed so - then one story grabbed her right by the eyes.
The story told of an older woman from Sharon’s hometown
she had known as a child. After raising her children, Mrs.
Preas had returned to school and received her doctorate, and
was now teaching in the university. Sharon read the article
over and over, even rubbing the printed words on the page
with her finger.
“How I wish I could do that,” she whispered to
herself - but she knew she couldn’t. There was no time, no
money, and she laughed to herself, “…and no courage.”
And the days passed turning into years, and the river of
life swept Sharon to all the places life had planned for her
to go. Years later, she found herself in the university
office across from the counselor’s desk.
“I want to go back to school,” she said. “I want to
earn my doctorate.”
“You can’t do that,” he said. “You’re too old. You’re
And Sharon smiled.
Today, at every commencement - at every graduation
ceremony – Dr. Sharon Chambers wears a beautiful graduation
gown. The same gown once worn by Dr. Mary Preas. The
children of Dr. Preas presented it to Sharon after their
mother passed away.
“She would want you to have it,” they said.
A story of hope and victory - and a story that teaches
a most valuable lesson. That lesson being we should reach
for it; we should leap for it. Step out into the canyon
knowing the bridge will appear under your feet.
The children of Israel
said, “We are afraid!”
God said, “Go forward!” And the sea parted.
Ed. Note – Michael Johnson’s Healing Shine – A
Spiritual Assignment was named “Best Audio Book” of the
2007 Hollywood Book Festival, and “First Runner-Up” at the
2007 New York Book Festival. Read more of the author’s
seven-year spiritual journey with the great – but severely
troubled - roping horse called Shine at
Michael's latest release,
Reflections Of A Cowboy, is currently available in audio
book form. The two volume set consists of articles, essays
and excerpts from radio performances about good people and
good horses in the life of an Oklahoma cowboy. Approximately
8 hours in length. Reflections Of A Cowboy in printed form
is scheduled for release in the summer of 2005. Order from