Well, I signed up for much more than I expected! When I registered I thought I was only signing up to do a single challenge, the zip line. I quickly realized I had signed up to do all three challenges: a zip line, a tree top swing and something called the Leap of Faith. I felt doing the zip line was an excellent way to face my fears. Seriously, I have a fear of heights. Courageously facing my fears in a safe manner via a zip line: Check!
Let me explain the Leap of Faith challenge to you. It involves climbing up a 22-foot tall telephone pole. Standing on top of it and then leaping out to grab at a trapeze bar you have little hope of actually reaching. Oh, by the way, it was also raining so the pole and climbing rungs were both slippery.
I’d be lying if I told you I was not scared. I felt like my stomach was in my throat as I watched the first two people attempt the Leap of Faith challenge. I know how my anxiety works. The longer I simmer with it the more difficult a task becomes. But my support system, my sister, was late to the event. My choice was to go ahead and go without her there to support me through it or wait and risk being paralyzed by my fear. I knew the longer I waited the less likely I was to actually do it so I said I would go. Before I knew it, my turn had arrived. And my sister had still not arrived. Gulp.
The guide put the full body safety harness on me and I began to climb. I felt like I was doing a pretty good job considering my fears and the fact that I think the last time I exercised in earnest was over 10 years ago. I looked up and felt like someone had punched me. I was only halfway there. Oh well, just keep moving… One trembling leg up at a time.
Finally, I was at the top. Now I had to figure out how to transition from the pole and rungs to the flat top. It sounds simple but it was not. It was something I watched every person struggle with once they arrived at the top. There was nothing above to use as leverage. I had to figure out how to hold on while using what little strength was left in my legs to push myself up. I was struggling though. I couldn’t figure out where to move my legs and felt as if I would fall if I moved my arms at all. Stranded on top of the pole. Literally hugging it for dear life. Trying to hold on while developing a strategy to do what I wanted to do. Then I heard a voice telling me to move my left foot to the right. That was it. All I needed was a little direction from someone with a clearer perspective on things. Now I was on top of the pole!
Exhilaration paused. Now, I was on top of the pole. Ugh. There was an option to sit or stand. I honestly can not remember if I ever sat. All I remember was standing there staring out at the tops of trees and down at the rest of my team. No sister yet. My team cheered and the guide advised me to count back from three to one and leap. I took a few breaths and started to count. ” One. No. Three. Two. Okay, starting over. Three. Two. One. Oh, crap.” My team continued to encourage me. I had a choice. I could do it or not do it. Either way, I was going to go down. My legs had no strength left to climb back down and the guide pulling me off could harm me. I was not about to back down but I still lacked the courage to actually jump. I stared out at the tree tops once more. This was a leap of faith and I was struggling. I turned to God and prayed for courage. I counted. “Three. Two. One.” I jumped off the pole. I’m certain I was not even close to grabbing the trapeze but I did it! I DID IT!!!
My team members asked me what it was like and I said, “The hardest part is the transition from the pole to the top.” -Just like in life, transitions are always hard. One must figure out what is holding you back and how to overcome that obstacle. After my leap of faith, the remaining challenges came relatively easy to me. Not without a little screaming but certainly none pushed me as the Leap of Faith had.
I am proud that I completed all three activities. I did things I never imagined I would ever do. I pushed myself physically, emotionally and spiritually. I think the physical and emotional growth is inherently described above. However, turning to God first as I struggle with problems in life is something I have been working on. I did just that when I was on top of the telephone pole. The fact that I could continue to confront my fears was proof that I was capable. I knew I was capable. Yet, I still held onto my fears. I could never figure out why they continued to exist in spite of my repeated efforts to face them. These challenges lead me to believe maybe the fears are irrelevant. There will always be something to be afraid of. You need something (for me, faith) to help you transition from a place of fear to action and self-actualization. In the absence of my sister, God sent me team members to cheer me on and give me information I could not clearly see myself. Then, when alone with no one else to lean on, I had to look inside myself, hand over my fears to God and trust Him to take care of me. He did. As He always does. With God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)
I do not mean to convey every person needs to turn to God to overcome their fears. Maybe that’s not your key. This is the issue I have been working on and the epiphany I had. This was the only thing holding me back. I am never alone. I do not have to do all things myself. I need to turn my fears over to God. I need to accept help from my friends. I need to trust that everything will be okay. Fear is like any illness. It presents with a set of symptoms that could signal a wide variety of things, from common cold to cancer. Carol deLaski writes:
Our fears vary and are as unique as our fingerprints. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Not to frighten yourself but to grow more confident and skillful at overcoming whatever is holding you back. Develop courage and resilience by facing and navigating your fears one small step at a time.
By the way, my sister arrived shortly after my leap… Just late enough for me to prove to myself I could do brave things without her. I think she received a memo from God to be late. We celebrated finding our courage under a beautiful rainbow!