‘The tiger, the man, and God’

A man was being chased by a tiger. He ran as hard as he could until he was at the edge of a cliff with the tiger in hot pursuit. The man looked over the edge of the cliff and saw a branch growing out of the side of the cliff a few feet down. He jumped down and grabbed the branch just as the tiger reached the cliff. The tiger growled viciously as the man sighed a great sigh of relief.

Just then a mouse came out from a crevice and began to chew on the branch. The man looked down to what was a drop of a thousand feet and sure death and looked to the heavens and yelled out, “Dear God, if you are there, please help. I will do anything you ask but please help.”

Suddenly a voice came booming down from heaven, “You will do anything I ask?” it questioned.

The man shocked to hear a reply to his plea yelled back, “I will gladly do anything you ask, but please save me.”

The voice from heaven then replied, “There is one way to save you but it will take courage and faith.”

The branch began to weaken from the mouse and the tiger was still growling a few feet above the man, “Please, Lord, tell me what I must do and I will do it. Your will is my will.”

The voice from heaven then said, “All right then, let go of the branch.”

The man looked down. He looked up at the hungry tiger a few feet away and he looked at the mouse still chewing on the branch. Then he looked up at the heavens and yelled, “Is there anyone else up there?”

– Anonymous

This humorous story offers an interesting insight into the nature of courage. Courage can often be depicted as a kind of muscular quality (and often is) where we summon strength from deep within and plunge forward into something with grit and  determination.

Yet we can see from this tale that, perhaps, more often, courage is the opposite of ‘strength’ as we stereotypically imagine it. Instead it is a gentler, shakier, leap of faith, the willingness to let go of uncertainty and to surrender into the unknown. There is an inherent vulnerability at the heart of courage because we recognise that we are not in control, but that we are often at the mercy of chance, destiny, and forces larger than us.

Courage therefore requires the ability to trust and let go: ‘Leap and the safety net will appear’ – but how difficult this is for us to do! Fear is the threat of annihilation, and we generally deal with fear by trying to control things. However, the path to growth demands that we resist this temptation and instead open to the mystery of our lives unfolding, moment by moment.

This trusting is a choice. Life can only ever be found in the present moment and so the basis of our trust must arise from the same place. Is there any sure-footing we can find as we climb this mountain of life? Given that everything is always changing, where can discover rest and refuge amidst the transience? A good place to start is simply by trusting whatever is happening right now, in each moment. We can connect with a sense of being ‘carried’ (and perhaps ‘cared’ for) downstream by the river of life. Simply choosing to lean back, and relax into those events and processes that are beyond our control. We can allow and give our ascent to what is happening simply because it is already happening. This acceptance brings us into greater harmony with life. Resistance to the flow of life alienates us and exiles us; choosing to surrender and ‘go with the flow’ of life brings us home.