Last week, while on vacation with Brian’s family, I watched my Bella do a high ropes challenge course.
She was first in line and jumping with excitement. They harnessed her up and taught her and the others going how to use the clips and how to follow the course. She climbed the stairs, her red braid swinging as she stepped with purpose. Then she encountered the first obstacle and froze. It was high, the planks were swinging, and she stood there shaking. “Dadddddy?” her voice quavered, “I don’t want to do this.”
“No, Daddy, no.” the tears welled. Brian pulled her to the side of the platform, so others could go past and move forward. She watched most of her cousins move ahead, although another younger one stopped with her, also afraid to move forward.
I couldn’t hear everything Brian said to her. I watched him kneel, point ahead, talk gently and encourage her to go.
She stepped forward tenuously, then with a little less hesitation, then even more confidence. She moved slowly but crossed planks and tires and more steps, holding onto the wires and harnessed in safely. Brian was right behind her all the way, with her, encouraging her.
Near the end, she started across another obstacle. This one was harder, a wire between posts and they swayed with every step. She got part way, her foot slipped and she froze, paralyzed by fear. “Daddy! Daddy!” she screamed in terror. “I can’t do this! I can’t do this!” He moved behind her. She had to go forward. The instructor shouted words of encouragement from below, “Look how far you’ve come!”
She had nowhere else to go.
She took another terrified step, and another, and another, and reached the end to the warm embrace of her Uncle Alan. She came down the steps to the bottom and ran into my arms tearfully. Her daddy yelled his encouragement, congratulating her on her bravery, then turned to climb himself, nimbly moved from obstacle to obstacle, making it look easy, finally having his chance to climb. She leaned against me while we watched him. “I was so scared, Mommy.”
I knelt to look in her eyes, pools of beautiful brown edged by tears. “But you did it. You were very courageous, you know that?” She shook her head no. “You were. Because courage is taking the next step even when you’re afraid. It’s doing the hard thing even when you don’t want to. You chose to face your fear and you beat it.”
Her face lit up and moments later she was sunshine again determined to climb the climbing wall and play with her cousins.
Oh, y’all… I watched her and all I could think about was our life, how we have obstacle after obstacle in front of us. How I want to stand at the edge and just yell to God, “Daddy, I don’t want to do this.”
But I must. We must.
We must move forward and there are days where the fear paralyzes, where I stand still and cry, “I can’t do this! No, Daddy, no.”
I don’t want to do this, y’all. I don’t. It’s agonizing and painful and full of fear.
But tenuously I step forward and face the onslaught. Some days the steps are hesitant. Sometimes more confident. And sometimes I’m frozen in panic.
But He is always right there, never leaving me, never forsaking me, only encouraging, whispering gently in my heart of His love, His truth. He has given me others who shout their encouragement, too.
Like Brian, who could have left Bella on her own, my God will never leave my side. He built the course. He knows every inch of it. The course seems impossible for me. It is possible for Him. He has promised to be faithful to the end, no matter where the course takes me.
“I am never–in anything, anywhere, at any time–by myself. I never arrive on scene first. I never step into a situation that exists outside His control. I never move beyond the reach of His authority. He is never surprised by where I end up or by what I am facing. He never leaves me to the limited resources of my own wisdom, strength, and righteousness. He never grows weary with protecting and providing for me. He will never abandon me out of frustration. I do not need to be afraid.” (Paul David Tripp, “New Morning Mercies”)