Does Stepping Out of the Boat
Mean I Have to Get My Hair Wet?

By Julie Voorhees

"What's life without a challenge?" my ten-year-old blurted before she leapt, flippers first, from the boat. All I needed was the excuse of cool water to hold me back. I clung to the ladder, nursing my shoulds and what ifs while she swam away leading the rest of my family to deeper waters. I should start dinner; they'll be hungry when they get back. What if they don't want to swim with me because I'm slower? What if she swims too far from the boat and gets a cramp?

I dipped my ankles deeper into the water. What if they think I look fat in my new suit? I should lose a couple pounds. I retracted one foot from the water. What if they have fun, and I'm still perched on this ladder? I sucked in my breath and scooted down a few more rungs. What if my daughter stays behind with me next time and misses out? I plunged into the water and kicked away from the boat.

The contrast of youth and maturity can be inspiring…and disturbing. How many of us were once fearless ten-year-olds? In a recent Oprah audience, women of all ages confessed they feel suffocated inside their comfort zones.

How did our shoulds become the obstacles that inhibit our potential? When did the what ifs tighten like tethers at each precipice of risk?

Many of us bury our true selves under the clutter of everyday shoulds. We get stuck in the perceived safety of avoiding risks: of failure, of not being good enough, of abandonment, of harm, of rejection. Our risk avoidance robs us of living valiant and contented lives.

The challenge to those of us hiding in our comfort zones is aptly summed up in the title of John Ortberg's book, If you Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat.

I tend to get out of the boat reluctantly. I have recently taken up snowboarding (I'm in my late forties). A few weeks ago, my friend Elyse suggested that we board together while our daughters were off snowboarding. Elyse claimed that she was also a beginner. Together we took the chairlift up to the top. I would have preferred the gentle beginners' slope. But we went with Elyse's choice, the intermediate slope. To me, this represented a pitch into extreme speed and possibly even the risk of death.

Elyse traversed proficiently down the first part of the intermediate incline. She stopped within shouting distance and waited for me. I looked down and froze. Several minutes passed while Elyse prompted and cajoled, "Just get going and whip your back foot around. You can do this, I know you can."

She had never seen me board before - what was she thinking? I listened to the incessant chatter inside my head: I should be at home dusting my baseboards. What if I fall and split my head open…underneath my helmet?

Other boarders whooshed past me while I balked, scooted, tumbled, and slid on my bottom to where Elyse awaited. I had covered only one-tenth of the way to the bottom of that hill.

"Great…you did it…I knew you could…now, let's try this next part," she said. Eventually, I made it down the hill. Each little sprint was met with Elyse's enthusiasm and encouragement. That afternoon, we went down the same slope several more times, at my request.

Confronting challenges and risks that trigger debilitating what ifs and shoulds is not unique to the modern woman. Esther, for example, was a Jewish orphan raised by her Uncle Mordecai at a time when Jews were still held captive in Persia, circa 485 B.C. Esther had her own "stepping out of the boat" issues. She was selected among many young maidens to wed the king. Unbeknownst to the king, his new queen was of Jewish descent. Within months after the wedding, her husband had ordered killing of all Jews, a response to the manipulation of an evil man named Haman.

Esther trembled at the outcome. Should she dare beseech her husband to save the Jews, her people? What if the king discovers that she is also a Jew? What if the king -according to the law and custom - killed her for approaching him without his invitation?

Wise Uncle Mordecai intervened to question his niece, "What if you are in this position of royalty for this very opportunity - for such a time as this?"

Esther then realized that her own boat held others. First, she asked her Uncle Mordecai to call the Jews to a time of fasting. Esther found favor with the king, and expressed his willingness to hear her requests. Esther said, "Let my life be given me as my petition, and my people as my request." Haman's scheming was exposed and he was executed. Esther and the entire nation of Jews were spared.

If left unchecked, our shoulds and what ifs become our obstacles that prevent us from being all who God created us to be. Choosing to step out of the boat unleashes our potential.

And who knows if rocking that boat "for such a time as this" could ripple through the lives of others, releasing them to embrace God's destiny for their lives.

Sometimes all it takes is an Elyse, a wise Uncle Mordy, or the voice of your ten-year-old to reveal the potential just beyond the next obstacle.

Christian life coach, Julie Voorhees, helps others realize and unleash their God-given potential into their everyday lives, She is a graduate of the Institute for Life Coach Training and a Behavioral Analyst. Julie lives in Nevada with her husband and their last pre-teen. You may contact Julie at

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