Some years ago, I heard a minister define faith as jumping off the proverbial cliff and finding your wings on the way down. Whether I jump or am pushed, that's what I call "winging it". When I'm winging it, I'm exercising my faith in God--believing that everything will work out for my good. While that doesn't mean I will get my way, exercising my faith in any given situation is trusting that there is a plan for my life. And, usually, that plan requires operating outside my comfort zone. Adapting to life circumstances I could never have anticipated or envisioned.
I winged it when I moved to Paris. After being misdiagnosed by several doctors in the U.S., a friend who lived in Paris suggested I seek out additional medical opinions there. During my visit, I was properly diagnosed. It turned out that the specialists in my illness were in France. So I moved to get the help I needed. While I know that moving to Paris sounds glamorous, the reality was otherwise given my circumstances. I was ill, heavily medicated, and spoke very little French. Talk about winging it, I flapped my wings so frantically I no doubt lost some feathers. Within my first month, I had to deal with: moving into an apartment without electricity (including heat) for two weeks because the landlord forgot to call the electric company; explaining my situation to various medical practitioners (without causing myself additional harm as a result of my limited French); and having to resolve a leak in my apartment (as I didn't know the words for leak or plumber, I thought my neighbor had written me a welcome note!). Honestly, there were times when I thought I was in for a crash landing. But I got my wings on the way down. As a result of winging it, I was blessed with neighbors who graciously helped me navigate the issues with my apartment, and my doctors understood me just fine (with much patience and humor).
I had a dream to live in Paris since I was 16 years old. Through illness, I learned the value of winging it. Had I not jumped off the cliff and moved to a foreign country, I would not have gotten the medical assistance I needed. And the bonus was that I got to realize my dream.
Even though winging it intimidates me at times, I have found a little more comfort in it. The more I do it, the more I know I can do it. Because of the exercise, my flapping isn't as frantic--my wings are stronger now. I still sometimes resist moving outside my comfort zone. It's scary out there. But it's outside my comfort zone where growth opportunities present themselves and blessings can be found. And every time I jump off the proverbial cliff and wing it, I may not be happy, but I have faith that I'll land exactly where I'm supposed to be.
How do you feel about winging it?
I had the pleasure of attending a jazz concert in Paris headlined by a band from New Orleans. The band's goal was to show France that the music of New Orleans was not lost with Hurricane Katrina. During the concert, most of the French audience was very reserved, displaying little outward manifestation of enjoyment. From my experience living among the French, they can be having a joyous time but are typically more reserved than Americans about showing it. Well, needless to say, the Americans in the audience had no such reservations. Initially, we tried to blend in with the French by mimicking them--we gently patted our feet. But the band was asking for more. Accustomed to playing for American audiences, they began clapping their hands, swinging their instruments from side to side, and gesturing for the audience to follow their lead. Seeing the disappointment on their faces when no one joined in, the Americans gave them what they were seeking. We stood, clapped our hands, and swung from side to side. The band started high-stepping and swinging more, thanking us for joining in. Meanwhile, most of the French audience watched us, smiling politely. At the time, we were a little embarrassed given the setting. We could just hear the French saying "those Americans!" But then the band told the audience that the participation made them feel loved and boosted their spirits because many of them lost everything after Hurricane Katrina. All was well.
After the concert, a few of us Americans walked to the metro to catch our trains home. As we stood on the platform, a group of French people who attended the concert walked up to us and expressed how much they enjoyed the concert and our dance with the band. When we told them we thought they were offended, they said they were actually thrilled. They said they wanted to jump up and dance with us, but did not do so because they tend to be reserved. But then right there on the metro platform, they asked us to teach them how to swing. Then and there, we made our own music, and they danced and danced. And then we noticed that the people on the opposite platform were dancing along, too. It was a sight to behold. The music of the night created joy that, in the end, united people. Nothing else mattered.