We pack into the van like sardines and drive to the field. Most people in the van are eagerly awaiting the chance to go on the zip line. Some already made the decision not to go on, while some are already deciding what they were going to do to make it more challenging. I, however, keep quiet while I secretly beat myself up about being scared. How could I be scared of something I did before, and loved?
I used to enjoy going on high ropes courses. The thrill had been scary at first, but as I climbed rock walls, did adventure courses in high school, and slid down zip lines, I began to enjoy the feeling of being high in the air. Suddenly, one year, fear began to consume me. I became so scared that I didn’t want to do anything. I yelled at myself for being so weak and stupid, but my self-condemning thoughts did not take away the pain I felt.
But today, I made a decision that I was not going to let fear stop me from doing what I enjoyed. I still wonder why God allowed fear to creep into my life (or maybe it was my own weaknesses), but I believe today that God is going to do something different.
Finally, the van pulls up to the zip line site. The supervisors of the camp explain the rules to us, but my ears are clogged with the reality that I actually have to stand up against my fear. I can’t believe I’m actually going to do a zip line after being so afraid for such a long time. Someone will definitely have to help me.
As my friends tighten the harnesses around their waists and legs, my head begins to spin. I watch as one person after the other races down the zip line with such ease and confidence. Why am I freaking out so much? Why can’t I be confident like my friends?
Finally, someone hands me a harness. My friend ties it up as I breathe slowly. Strapping on a helmet, I walk up the hill with two of my friends. For a moment, I feign excitement, forcing myself to be glad that I am finally going to do what I have avoided for years.
Once I reach the top of the hill, I tell myself not to look down. Still, the chance to see a beautiful view is tempting. I look down, and my stomach turns. There is a man at the top of the ladder waiting for me. My friends are waiting on the bottom, cheering me on with each move I make. My other friends are below me, taking pictures and waiting for me to go down to the bottom. God is beside me and within me, pushing me forward. However, I cannot shake the fear that creeps inside of me.
The scariest part for me is climbing the ladder. Once I get on that platform, I will be fine, but the ladder heavily shakes as I inch my way to the top. I am ready to give up as my heart pounds in my chest. With encouragement on every side, I ask God: “What do you want me to learn from this?” He says to me, “I am helping you.” Just as God tells me that, I hear voices. I turn around and see that three more of my friends came up to support me. With each step I put my faith in God, pressing beyond my anxiety. My friends cheer with me, giving me joy as I push myself.
Finally, I reach the top. After feeling such an adrenaline rush, I can barely breathe…all I can do is weep with relief. The man on the platform clips my rope to the zip line and tells me to go whenever I am ready. Without even thinking, I slide off the edge and extend my arms out in complete freedom and full surrender. I go on the zip line two more times, each time with more at ease.
I learned two things from this story. First, I learned that I want to grow without suffering. On this Earth, the Lord promises that we will suffer but that he will be with us (John 16:33). James writes that trials produce perseverance, character, and then maturity (1:2-4). The ladder represented my suffering. I just wanted to fly, but I needed to overcome my fear first (which definitely was not easy!). I had to give control to the man belaying me up the ladder, the rope leading me down the hill, and my Lord who promises to uphold me when I fall (Psalm 145:14). I had to fight my fear instead of passively letting it drag me down.
But I also learned that I could not do it alone. That is what brought my fear in the first place. I learned that I had an inability to climb because I thought I had gained the ability to do it on my own. However, I still needed the encouragement of my friends. I still needed to be dependent on God. And I still had access to friends who cared about me and a loving Father who is faithful and trustworthy.
No matter what ladders I will have to climb, I know that God will give me the support that I need through friends and through his comforting Spirit. And when I make it to the top, I can look down and enjoy the blessings that God has given me.