Photo by Denny Luan on Unsplash
During a recent conversation with a friend, he mentioned a word I had not heard before: brachiate. He suggested I google it when I returned home. He said it is a word worth discovering – and even more important, a word worth living.
I did as he said and discovered the following:
“Brachiate comes from the Latin word ‘brachium’, discovered in the mid-18th century, and means ‘arm’ or ‘arm swinging’. The verb means to swing by the arms from one hold (branch or tree limb) to the next and one of its uses is for smaller monkeys that proceed through the jungle by swinging from one hold to the next.”
I began to think of other possibilities and thought of the monkey bars we used in junior school or the trapeze artistes soaring through the air in a circus.
To the monkeys in the jungle, brachiating has a degree of risk as they swing from one tree limb to another. There are moments where they need to let go of the security of one branch to launch out hoping that there is another branch for them to grasp.
And that’s when the reality of living the Christian life hit home with fresh perspective: Following the Lord has a lot to do with “brachiating”.
Let me give you a few examples:
1. Abram: The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1)
Notice: Abram had to leave that which was familiar to him to go to that which was at the time unknown. He was being asked to brachiate.
2. Peter and John: “So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:11)
All Peter and John had was a call to follow Jesus, not knowing where it would take them, what it would involve or how their needs would be met. They were being asked to brachiate.
3. Philip: “Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road – the desert road – that goes from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (Acts 8:26)
Philip was leading an amazing evangelistic outreach in a city in Samaria (Acts 8:4-8) and was instructed to leave it all and head for the desert, not knowing what was going to happen next. He was being asked to brachiate.
4. Elijah: “Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the Lord came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have instructed a widow there to supply you with food.” (1 Kings 17:7-8)
What was Elijah required to do when he heard the words: “The brook has dried up”? He was asked to do something quite illogical that required a great step of faith. The widow who was to provide him with food was, in fact, poor and incapable of feeding herself, let alone Elijah. He was being asked to brachiate.
Modern management theory would advise us to examine our options. For Elijah that might have been:
- Do nothing and hope for the best. That would be the equivalent of watching your church gradually die and close down.
- Take some human initiative: Like drilling for water or applying for monetary grant which might require a church to compromise its convictions and calling.
- Revert to the traditions of the past and build monuments to the ravens (the good old days) and not accept the fact that God has moved on.
As I read the Scriptures, I have come to the conclusion that the practice of brachiating is quite common for those who would wholeheartedly follow their Lord.
In fact, as long as we follow the Lord, we will continually be asked to step out and brachiate.
Learning from giants
So what can we learn about brachiating from Abram and Peter and John and Philip and Elijah and others who have been used greatly by God?
1. They were people who surrendered their lives to God.
They realised that when they surrendered their lives to the Lord, He had the right to interrupt their lives and cut across their plans anytime He chose.
2. They were people who heard the voice of God.
This meant that they made it a high priority to spend time in the presence of the Lord in serious Bible study and prayer.
Henry Blackaby said in his book Experiencing God: “One of the greatest tragedies among God’s people is that while they have a deep longing to experience Him, they are experiencing Him day after day, but do not know how to recognise Him.”
3. They were people who took bold faith steps in obedience to God’s Word.
They recognised that it is only in the continual taking of faith steps that they gave God room to move. Such faith steps, although at times illogical, connected them to the resources of God and the open doors of God. To brachiate will require a person to leave a place of security and to momentarily hang suspended, trusting that the Lord will provide the next tree limb to grasp.
This article by Rod Denton has been republished with permission.
Reflection and Discussion
- How would you describe your life right now? Does the life of brachiating sound inviting?
- What has the Lord been speaking to you?
- Is there something the Lord has told you to do that you have been putting off? Will you step out in faith and act in obedience today?