Sunday, August 23, 2015

When You Scale a Wall

During my time in Okinawa, I decided to face a fear.

I'm not sure how I talked myself into this.

Actually, I don't think there was much talking involved. Somewhere over a bowl of ice-cream and Settlers of Catan, I agreed to this. I blame the Okinawan air.

And then, there I was, harnessed in, helmet on my head, trying to remember the cardinal rule: don't let go of the rope.

I took a deep breath, promising myself I wouldn't look down. I think if I had, then I would have chickened out.

How did I get into this position?

When asked to describe myself, one of the first words I would definitely use is "cautious". I do not like heights, airplanes, free falls, roller coasters, and clowns, and I will go to great lengths to avoid them.

I certainly never imagined myself standing at the top of a 100 foot cliff, ready to repel myself down.

But I took a breath... and I slipped. Awesome.

I let go of the rope and grabbed the cliff (remember the cardinal rule?). Fortunately, I had some pretty amazing guides who talked me through how to keep going... and gently reminded me not to let go of the rope.

A few seconds later, after my not-so-graceful beginning, I kept going.

Right foot, left foot, just keep breathing.

I finally was comfortable enough to jump a little.

I didn't look down, and instead kept listening to my guide on the ground giving advice. After a few seconds, the nerves settled enough that I could enjoy the journey.

And then, at last, my feet touched the rock that had been waiting for me.


I officially felt like jello. After removing the harness and helmet, I stumbled to where friends were waiting so we could watch the rest of our group repel down.

I actually did it! A breathed a sigh of relief and sat down, enjoying the view of the cliff I had just descended.

And then I realized the adventure was only halfway finished. My friends had said we would need to climb our way back up, and it was only now that I fully realized what they meant.

No rope, no harness, just climbing our way through the maze of rock and bush.

When everyone was ready, we began to climb back up. I followed the guy in front of me, watching where he placed his hands and trying to follow.

I expected to be discouraged. I expected to feel overwhelmed and scared as I tried to climb. I expected the familiar feeling of panic.

But I didn't.

As I climbed, I kept thinking of one of my favorite books,  Hind's Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. In this story, a woman named Much Afraid is led on a journey to the High Places by the Shepherd. Meant to be an allegory of following Jesus, Much Afraid's journey is hard. It's painful, and it requires her to make sacrifices. On her way, she must overcome pride, despair, discouragement, anger and fear.

Many times during her journey Much Afraid is given a choice. She can return to the Valley of Humiliation where she had a quiet and somewhat-comfortable life. She had a decent job working for the Shepherd, and she had relatives who were somewhat stressful and not very kind,  but they were relatives.

However, if she wanted more, then she had to follow the Shepherd. Her feet were awkward, and she had little strength, but as she followed, she grew stronger.

And really, when the choice is the High Places or the Valley of Humiliation, is there really a choice at all?

I had made the choice to repel down the cliff, and now I had no choice but to climb back up. I mean, I could have stayed at the bottom and let the tide come in and pull me out to sea. But really, what choice is that?

So we climbed, and eventually, I made it.

It wasn't graceful or beautiful. I am definitely not an expert, and there was nothing that would be inspiring to anyone else about the climb.

But something felt different when I reached the top. And even now, weeks after the event, I feel different.

Maybe it's because I stopped letting fear take hold of my heart.

Maybe because I took a risk.

Maybe because I was forced to let go... let go of my control, my fear, my desire for safety... and I had to trust.

I had to trust the rope, the guy at the bottom who promised to catch me if I fell, the guy in front of me who led the way back up, and myself as I gripped rocks and pulled myself to the top.

And as I worked through this, He assured me all the way. Instead of panic, my heart was filled with peace. I knew this was a moment that, blood, bruises and all, I would get through and be stronger as a result.

My wobbly feet became a little stronger that day. And the crazy thing is... I can't wait to do it again!

My friend Chelsea and I at the bottom of the cliff, ready to climb back up. 

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