Have you ever tried to do something that terrified you? Having someone to cheer you on can make all the difference, as Elizabeth found out when a supposed-to-be-fun outing took an unexpected turn.
I have a tremendous fear of heights. I got sick when I tried parasailing on a family vacation. I passed out on a helicopter ride on my honeymoon. Heights and I are not friends. It’s common, I know. But it’s real. Don’t judge. In fact, according to a recent survey by Chapman University, heights rank second in fears, just behind public speaking. I am happy to report I do not possess the fears of clowns or zombies.
I remember when I was a sophomore in high school and hanging out with my best friend, Sarah. Her uncle ran a sports camp for youth, so one beautiful spring weekend Sarah’s family took us out there for the day. I didn’t grow up attending camp, so the entire experience was foreign to me. Her uncle, unaware of my fear, suggested we try the pamper pole. I, unaware of what the pamper pole entailed, heartily agreed.
If you are a camp virgin like I was, allow me to let you in on a little secret. The pamper pole is a twenty-foot high pole about the diameter of a telephone pole. Sane, rational people actually choose—of their own free will—to climb to the top. You know, just for fun. Then, once you’re at the top, you stand there looking down! At the ground! I think you are supposed to admire God’s creation but who can focus on God’s bounty when you are standing twenty feet from your death? After pausing a moment to hyperventilate, your camp counselor, or grim reaper, as I like to call him, tells you to jump—jump! You have to jump off this death trap and try to catch a trapeze-like PVC-pipe, swing for a moment, just for kicks, then let go so the counselor can slowly (I use the term slowly loosely, because it actually feels like you are falling at warp speed) lower you to the ground. So as not to mar the camp’s reputation, I should mention that participants always wear a harness and helmet, but that is of little consolation for people with undiagnosed acrophobia.
My friend Sarah eagerly conquered the pamper pole. Her brother followed, no problem. Then it was my turn. They suited me up. To say I was shaking would be an understatement. I wanted to back out. I tried to back out. But I had this entire cheering section telling me I could do it. Sarah’s parents, aunt, uncle, cousins, grandparents—everyone—were there clapping, shouting words of encouragement, telling me I was strong and capable and I could do this. I was just hoping I wouldn’t pee in my harness.
I slowly climbed up the pamper pole, feeling the entire thing shake as I made my way to the top. When I was halfway up the pole, someone yelled, “Don’t look down.” Well, you know what you do when someone tells you not to do something—you do it. I looked down. Big mistake. Twenty feet is even higher than it sounds. I felt my eyes water with tears. Acrophobia is no joke. But I didn’t want to disappoint them, so I kept climbing.
Finally, after a few pauses along the way, I made it to the top. But I still had to stand directly on top. In order to do that, I had to joist myself to a standing position with nothing to hold on to. I wanted to climb down, but I knew Sarah’s family wasn’t about to let me get away with that. After a very slow press on top of the pole, I did it. I was standing! My knees were shaking like two maracas, but I was standing! Now there was only one thing left to do.
“Jump!” they all yelled. The last thing I wanted to do was jump to my death. What if the harness didn’t work? Sure, it worked for Sarah and her brother, but what if I was that girl who ended up on the nightly news? I can hear the headlines now: TRAGIC ACCIDENT AT HILL COUNTRY CAMP: GIRL SOARING THROUGH THE AIR NOW SOARS INTO HEAVEN.
Their cheers snapped me back into reality. “You can do it, Elizabeth! Just jump. Reach for the bar!” I eventually jumped. I didn’t reach the bar, but I also didn’t die. Winning! The harness didn’t break, and I also didn’t pee in it. Mission accomplished. And I lived to tell the tale.
If I had seen myself through my own lens, I would have seen nothing but a girl who was afraid of heights—a girl who was incompetent, incapable, and untalented. But God gave me an awesome cheering section that day that allowed me to work through my fear of heights and to see myself through Jesus’ lens of talent. We all need a cheering section to tell us that we are competent, capable, worthy, and talented.
Have you ever had anyone cheer you on? Have your family members or friends ever told you that you are smart enough, talented enough, capable enough to accomplish your goals, overcome your fears, and go after your dreams? Without a cheering section, it is difficult to make our dreams a reality.
I want you to know, friend, that God believes in you. He is your cheering section. He say that you are talented and capable and competent, even when the world says that you are not.