In his book “Both Feet In,” retired missionary Dr. Bud Fray references an African proverb that says: “Only a fool tests the depth of the water with both feet.” It’s like testing the temperature of the pool water before you jump in; we stick our toe in first, and if it’s too cold we have the option of pulling back. Once we jump in with both feet we are committed … and we better know how to swim!
After serving 28 years among the people of Zimbabwe and South Africa, Bud and his wife, Jane, know firsthand what the Africans mean by this proverb. The Africans’ life experiences taught them to tread cautiously before committing to something. They worshipped many different gods, holding many beliefs that were contrary to the gospel. So when confronted with the truths of the Bible, they hesitated to commit to the One True God of Scripture.
Carefully and wisely, missionaries like Bud taught them to weigh all the consequences and then, when they were ready, when they were totally committed to Jesus’ teaching, then put both feet in, knowing there is no turning back.
Jesus calls us to likewise have both feet in for the sake of the gospel as we share with those who have yet to hear. This seems so counterintuitive to our culture.
In many ways our culture tells us: Focus on what I want and need, what makes me happy and feeds my ego. This comes first as I make choices for how I will live and what I will commit to with my time and resources. If something is going to cost me, if I stick my toe in first and don’t like it, I have the right to pull back and not jump in with both feet. It all depends on what makes me happy first.
Bud Fray and our other missionaries are testimonies of individuals who weighed the consequences and, even though the cost may be great, have placed both feet in for the sake of the gospel.
We, too, have been called to do the same as followers of Christ. We are called to come alongside missionaries and pray for them and for the people we are trying to reach. We are called to search our hearts and find the level of sacrificial giving that will be pleasing to God, not what is easy for us. We have been called to lay aside our personal schedules and physically go to where the people are if God leads us to go.
In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 5, a portion of verses 14 and 15 reads: “For Christ’s love compels us … that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for the One who died for them and was raised.” Paul both feet in for the gospel in his day and would encourage us to do the same today in whatever way God calls us.
Wanda Lee is executive director of national WMU.