The scariest thing about rappelling isn’t dropping over the side of the cliff. The equipment is simple and procedures are easy. All you have to do is clip in and step off the edge. Not that that dangerous or difficult.
No, the scary parts are the questions inside your own head: Can I do this? Will I chicken out at the last minute? Will I be the only one to fall off? Will I be the only guy to bust my head? Will I be the one who freezes halfway down the cliff and the belay-guy has to rescue me?
I recently attended a men’s retreat in Colorado at Bear Trap Ranch, and we spent one afternoon rappelling off a 120’ cliff. It was great fun.
It was also scary, that is until it was finally my turn and I went over the edge. Then, it felt like flying. I fed the rope at a steady pace like a big boy, making my way down the mountain with beautiful bouncing steps. (At least, that’s how I want to remember it.) Fear turned into joy and I wanted the cliff to be even taller. I wanted it to last a long time. I wanted to go forever.
Later that afternoon in the safety of my own bunk I read the Bible story from Luke 24 about two people who spent a day with Jesus while walking down the road to a village called Emmaus. One was named Cleopas; the Bible doesn’t tell us the other person’s name, but I think it was Mrs. Cleopas. The story took place immediately after Jesus’ death and resurrection, when Jesus’ followers were still hiding in a room with the doors locked. They were afraid the same people who had killed Jesus would come after them.
There is no indication in the biblical account or historical record that authorities were pursuing followers of Jesus, but they didn’t know that. It all happened so quickly and violently the followers of Jesus had no idea what would happen next, so they holed up in a room with the door locked for protection.
They were locked in, out of fear.
Curiously, the only ones among them who had personally seen the risen Jesus, saw him when they were outside the room.
That is the power of fear. It paralyzes us. It keeps us locked in. It causes us to avoid trying scary things. Even when our fears make us feel safe, they keep us from finding Jesus.
It isn’t easy to remove fear from our life. You can’t just decide not to be afraid. For one thing we put so much energy justifying and defending our fear they begin to feel like logical and sane reactions to the scary outside world. As in, anyone in their right mind should be afraid of what’s happening right now. It’s hard to get around that.
We have a friend who has watched so much 24-hour news on TV she is afraid of everything. She worries about which roads not to travel, what not to eat, all the evil people in politics, and none of it with personal knowledge. All her conversations are about her fears. It hasn’t always been that way with her. We used to have long intelligent conversations about books and big ideas. She was one of my favorite people to talk to, and now we all avoid her. Her life is so tied up in knots from fear, which has morphed into resentment and bitterness, no one wants to be with her. I suppose all the things she is afraid of have become true in her dark, isolated, small world. It’s too bad. It didn’t have to turn out that way.
So how do we escape the power of fear? Here’s what helped me when we went rappelling - I wasn’t alone. I was with a bunch of guys and we shared our courage.
The followers of Jesus finally overcome their fear and went back outside after direct intervention by Jesus. He came to them, appeared in their locked room, and said, “Peace by with you.” He immediately turned their doubts and fears into joy.
What are you afraid of? Find someone to share courage with you. Ask Jesus to appear, and to set you free.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32