Recently we took our Youth group to a High Ropes Course in the area. One of the four groups had a student that was having some difficulty with her confidence.
To put it more accurately, she was freaked out!
She made it through the first element and decided that she was sufficiently freaked out enough to want to stop and get down. This ropes course adopts the challenge-by-choice method, so if a student chooses to stop, then they honor that decision. I was close by on the sidelines so I encouraged her to continue, but as I did so, I realized it seemed like her mind was made up.
Knowing this student rather well, I paused and tried a different tactic. I am very familiar with the staff of this ropes course, so this tactic had some merit because of my relationship with the course leader. I looked over at my friend, Larry, and asked him a question just loud enough for this young lady to hear:
“Larry. Has anyone ever fallen off this ropes course?”
“Nope,” Larry replied, quickly realizing what I was doing.
“So she can trust in the equipment?” I asked, again, loud enough for the student to hear.
“Absolutely,” Larry responded.
“Did you hear that [name of student]?” I asked. “Your equipment is sound. You will not fall. Now the only thing holding you back is YOU. You can overcome this fear.”
And then I told her that the final decision was hers and I would support whatever she decided. I stopped talking at this point because I didn’t want to hound her. Plus I wanted to give her room to wrestle with her decision on her own.
About a minute later she shocked me (I thought she was done), and she told the instructor that she wanted to keep going! Even the instructor was surprised! She told me later that she thought the student was done as well. The instructor told the student “good job” for wanting to continue.
I could tell, however, that she was still on the bubble a little, so I had one more piece of advice for her:
“Hey [student’s name], make sure you communicate to your teammates and to your instructor what you need. For example, would you like someone on both sides of you as you go through this next element?”
She nodded her head rapidly.
“Then make sure you tell people what you need.”
And she did! She actually made it through the whole challenge course without any more hesitation. That doesn’t mean she wasn’t sufficiently freaked out, rather, she chose to have faith in something outside of herself (in this case, the equipment) as well as in those she was navigating the ropes course with. In other contexts of her life, it could be the LORD, teachers, coaches, parents, pastors, or maybe a future spouse that she’ll have to trust. Will she bail on them? Maybe. But maybe not. This middle school girl faced an incredible fear in her life that day and instead of quitting and not working through that fear, she chose (with the encouragement and help from others), on her own, to continue. It was a great day for this young girl!
At the end, before she zip-lined down she yelled for my attention:
“Jeremy! I made it!!”
“I know!” I yelled back. “I can see. Good job! I’m proud of you!!”
And I was.