There was a time in my life when fear was a way of life. A time when leaving home caused panic attacks and I always chose the back pew at church. Consider this a teaser--I'll write more about this in a future post. I just want you to know where I've come from and that I'm not one of those over-confident adrenaline junkies who stare fear in the face and laugh.
We were in Belize to conduct a Bible conference, so most of our ministering took place in the evenings, leaving some time for fun. On one 90+ degree day, we had a choice--soak in a cool river near a beautiful waterfall . . . or risk your life 100 feet above the jungle floor on a zipline.
I chose the water.
But, as He so often does, God had other plans. I'd felt the tug when a canopy tour was first suggested. My hubby was in, and so was one of the other guys. In spite of apprehension, I actually considered it for about three seconds. But I wasn't going to be the only woman on an "adventure" that might prove too much for this weaker vessel. So I donned bathing suit and sundress and packed my beach towel.
When we arrived at the spot where the river people would go one way and the crazies the other, I saw the faces of the zipline guides. Only two customers? This is how these men earn a living. And we'd come to bless the Belizean people, right? They began talking about helmets and harnesses and safety. I mean, what could possibly go wrong while you're flying along a cable suspended 100 feet above the jungle floor?
I looked at my new buddy Erica. She looked at me. Not sure which one of us was nuts enough to say it first--"I will if you will." I found courage in her fear. We had that in common. If I froze on a platform and couldn't take that first step into oblivion, I knew I'd have an understanding sister by my side.
One small problem: We'd both dressed for playing in the water--swimsuits and cover-ups. Can you say awkward? The guides brushed aside our concerns of modesty and in moments we'd signed consent forms and were helmeted and strapped with about twelve pounds of harness, lanyards, and carabiners. We rattled down the trail--the noise probably worsened by shaking nerves--until we came to the first platform.
I'm not fond of heights, but I've climbed my share of observation towers and lighthouses--as long as they have solid railings and not a lot of space for slipping through between stairs. And we were carabinered to the cable the whole time. So the climb didn't scare me . . . too much. It was the zipping I feared. I assumed it would feel like that first dip on a roller coaster. My face would contort with the g-force pull and I'd leave my stomach on the platform and hope it caught up with me before lunch. But as terrifying as that was, it was the step-off moment that froze me. I knew I wouldn't have the courage to do it. Would they push if I asked? I wished I'd read the fine print on the consent form. Maybe Bill would shove me. A loving husband has to give a nudge once in awhile, right?
So there I was, on the platform behind the husband I was hoping would push me, when the guides began demonstrating. "Put your gloves on. Hold onto the cable. Now lift up on your toes and we'll attach your harness to the cable. Now hold these straps with your left hand and rest your right on the cable above and behind your head." Easy enough. I waited for the creepy part. "Now sit."
What? As it turned out, that's all you have to do. Hang on. Trust the cables and harnesses. And sit. The moment I did, I was off, zipping over indescribable jungle beauty with ZERO FEAR. It was nothing but a fun, adrenaline-charged rush!
We climbed higher at each station until we reached 100 feet. I was sure this would be the scary one. (Okay, the climb was a little nerve-rattling when steps with railings became ladders without.) But the zipping? Just more fun. And then there was the run when I didn't have enough momentum to get all the way across. Pull yourself hand-over-hand to the platform, they'd instructed. Uh-huh. I didn't have the hand strength or size to squeeze the thick leather gloves and cable beneath them. But they'd told us what to do. Just stop. And wait. We'll come after you. I stopped. I waited, dangling above the abyss. And I looked down. Well, Lord, here we are. Amazingly, I wasn't afraid. I drank in the beauty of a waterfall below. Those poor folks who zipped right past didn't have this opportunity. One of the guides came after me, hooked my harness to his, and hauled me to safety . . . hand over hand.
And then there was the suspension bridge. A little freaky, yes, but we were still connected to a cable.
We'd been promised ice cream at the end . . . though there was something in the guide's tone that was not to be trusted. Sure enough, the way down is a sudden drop. I SCREAM! But I didn't. At least not in fear. It was a tad bit stomach-lurching, but by that point I knew I was secure. In good hands. (Out of respect for my readers, I'm only including a small picture of my backside in a striped dress as I was being lowered to the ground. Though I'm sure the "secretary spread" is an optical illusion. ;) )
I won't belabor the faith lessons of this experience. I'm sure you've already caught them. But I couldn't ignore the parallels to one of the lessons our kids' team was teaching the children in the villages we visited--put on the full armor of God before you do anything.
I face fear daily--relationship problems, health concerns in our family--and when I do, I want to remind myself: "Just sit." God's got this. He put his helmet of salvation on your head. The belt of his truth is the harness that will catch you if you start to fall. Even if it's scary, focus on the beauty around you. And if you get stuck . . . know beyond the shadow of a doubt he's coming after you and he'll pull you back. Hand over nail-scarred hand.
How do you handle fear? Is there an area of your life where God's saying, "Just sit?"