Every summer my Student Ministry does a 2 day Camping/Canoe trip. The first day consists of a 5 mile hike along a river to a waterfall with naturally formed rock slides and an area to jump off rocks into the water. That night we camp out and cook our meal over an open fire. Then the second day we do a 10 mile canoe trip down a river, stopping a several points along the river to swim, swing off of rope swings, and play in clay pits (not me).
There’s a jump off a high rock near the waterfall on the first day of the trip that I have never considered doing. I have a fear of heights…a very strong fear of heights…which is why I have never considered it. Every year I would hike up to that location and watch as students jumped off into the water. And every year, I never consider doing it myself.
This year the week leading up to the Camping/Canoe trip had been a particularly difficult and humbling one for me. God had been making me aware of areas in my life that were not as they should be, and that adjustments needed to be made. Those are not always easy lessons to learn…and although I needed to learn them, I was struggling a lot.
As the Camping/Canoe trip approached and I was struggling through my difficult week, I honestly didn’t want to go on the trip. I just felt weak and tired from struggling and the lessons I was being taught, so doing the trip was not a strong desire of mine in the midst of all that. However, I was the trip leader, so I didn’t have an option.
Not only was I having a difficult week, the trip started off rough as well. 2 days before the trip, the other leader who puts the majority of the details together had to back out of the trip, so I had a lot more to cover for this trip than usual. I felt like I was scrambling the day before and morning of the trip to make sure we were ready.
Then the morning of the trip, after we loaded everything into the vehicles and prepared to head out, my car wouldn’t start. It was just another thing making things tough. But, we jumped my car and got it running, and then we were off.
Once we arrived at the location of the hike to the waterfall, everything went much more smoothly…which was nice. It was a very enjoyable hike with my group up to the waterfalls. That was a nice distraction for me.
When we arrived at the waterfall, our group quickly made the little extra trek up past the waterfall to the area where they liked to jump off of rocks into the water. And as I had done every year, I made the trek as well to watch them. I had my camera, so I was taking photos and videos of the students jumping off the rocks into the water.
As I was standing there watching, I started to wander how high the highest jump was. I had never been up there to see, so I set down my camera and climbed up to see. I had no intention of jumping, I was just curious. However, as soon as students saw me up on the top of the rock, they all started cheering for me to jump. I kept saying “but I wasn’t planning to jump, I just wanted to see how high it was”…but they weren’t really listening to me. They just kept cheering for me to conquer my fear and jump.
The pressure was on!
Students began coming up to where I was and telling me I had to jump now. There was even a couple that was not with our group who climbed up to jump off, and they said to me “you have your own cheering section, you have to jump now.” I was feeling the pressure.
After a few minutes, I made my way to the edge of the rock to look at what the jump would be like. The cheers grew louder, and after I saw how far the decent into the water was, my fear multiplied. I was looking down, thinking about the jump and how scared I was. At one point I was actually so nervous and allowing my fear to get the better of me that my hands were actually numb.
That is when things changed. As I was sitting there looking at the jump and realizing my hands were numb because I was so scared, I had the following thought… “I’m tired of letting fear dictate my actions.” So, I closed my eyes and took deep breaths, calming myself down. Then I stood up, readied myself, and actually did it…I jumped!
That was a huge moment for me, and not just because I did something to overcome a fear. It was big because of what it symbolized. This jump was me deciding to not allow fear dictate my actions. This was exactly one of the lessons God had been teaching me and humbling me with over the past week.
I had been allowing fear to dictate my actions in a lot of different ways. Fear of not being in control, fear of things changing in ways I don’t necessarily like, fear of losing what I love, and so on. How I had been reacting was based on these fears I had, and God was calling me on it.
It was time I stopped allowing fear to be what was dictating my actions. Rather, I needed to have confidence in God, trusting in him because he is in control, and relying on his strength in this life. I had known that was true in my head, but I needed to start living based on that truth.
After all, fear is a feeling and feelings can be fickle and misleading. I needed to be basing my actions on something more concrete and substantial, something that didn’t change based on how I was feeling at the moment. God does not change based on how I am feeling, he remains the same. God has a plan, God is in control, and God can give me the strength I need for any situation in this life, no matter how difficult. That is what I needed to be allowing to dictate my actions.
When I was sitting on top of the rock allowing fear to control me, I decided that was enough. I was ready to make the necessary changes in my life to no longer allow fear to dictate my actions, and I decided to show it symbolically with this jump.