I spent this past Saturday with a middle school youth group outside on the challenge course. We ran the static course, which is the highest part of our ropes course and requires the students to transfer themselves along the course. This means that there are a few points where, if the students don’t follow very specific instructions, they could be in trouble.
And they are 40 feet off the ground. Which always leads us to a conversation about fear.
We were created with a sense of fear, and that can be a really, really good thing. Afraid of fire? Good, it can burn you. Afraid of swimming out too far in the ocean? Good, you can drown. Afraid of climbing up on little pole 40 feet in the air? Good, you could fall and die. A healthy sense of fear is really important to keeping us safe and alive.
But fear can become a negative influence when it keeps us from taking risks that can help us learn and grow. The ropes course challenges this sense of fear because yes, 40 feet in the air is high and dangerous. But, when done correctly, climbing the ropes course (while clipped into a harness and a belayer) is done in a way that maximizes safety. It is the perfect place to test the ways in which your fears can limit you– and ways in which you can overcome them.
This particular Saturday, I volunteered to traverse the course when we set it up (it’s a state requirement that a staff person do this before any participants do). I was solely responsible for my safety: I harnessed myself, clipped myself in, and navigated my way around the course. I had to trust my head knowledge and my physical ability to do things correctly to ensure that I was safe. I was terrified, but I did it successfully. What if I applied this same self-assurance and bravery to my days off the ropes course? Would I be able to overcome some of my fears that are holding me back in my day-to-day life?
As we were cleaning up late that afternoon, I lost a rope through a pulley and had to climb back up to the top of the course and rethread the rope. And I had to learn this lesson about fear all over again. And each time I relearn it, I hope I get a little bit better at it.