Oct. 4 was a beautiful autumn day. The colors of the leaves on the trees were highlighted by the sun and a clear blue sky. It was a great day to be alive and I had just completed the second of 10 zip lines at the Hocking Hills World Class Canopy Tour. My legs felt like rubber, my heart was beating rapidly and it seemed as if all of the nerves in my body were on “high alert.” I was standing about 40-50 feet above the ground on a small wooden deck with no railing that was built around a tree. What crazy idea had led me to this point?
Just then I saw my wife zipping toward the tree that I was standing on and I remembered; it was her crazy idea to go zip lining; not mine!
Pastor Dan and his wife Jeannie.
Let me explain …
A friend of ours had told us how much fun she had when she went zip lining with some of her friends. She told us that you wear a harness that is attached to metal cable lines or zip lines. You travel — or zip — from one station to the next. I listened to her talk about the experience but not as carefully as I should have. I was thinking these zip lines were about the height of an old fashioned clothes line, not 70 feet above the ground! Anyway, several weeks later my wife, Janie, was exercising at Curves and one of the workers there challenged the women to do something they had never done before. You guessed it – Janie said she wanted to go zip lining. Zip lining was not on my “bucket list” but I didn’t want to be a chicken, so I agreed to share the experience with her.
As a pastor, I often encourage people to face their fears, trust God, and remind themselves that they/we “can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.” A lot of people have a great fear of public speaking. Some surveys indicate that many people’s fear of public speaking is greater than their fear of death. When I was a kid, I hated giving oral book reports. Yes, I was afraid of standing in front of the classroom and having to talk about a book that I had read. Although I still get a little nervous before preaching, my years of delivering sermons and making speeches when I worked in the business world have helped me to overcome the fear of public speaking.
With God’s help, I have overcome many fears. However, I’m not comfortable with heights. I’ve never had a desire to bungee jump or sky dive. When I’m standing on a cliff or on a high building, I don’t like dangling my toes over the edge. I’m reminded of when Satan tried to talk Jesus into jumping from the top of a temple by quoting scripture about how God’s Son would be protected. Jesus responded by saying, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Perhaps my fear of heights is a result of a childhood experience that I used to dread. In 1957, my dad was the pastor of six churches located in the mountains of West Virginia and Maryland. One of those churches was located at the top of a mountain that was referred to as “Old Baldy.” It received the nickname because that part of the mountain was located next to a paper mill and most of the trees and vegetation had been killed off. Although there was a safer route to the church, my dad would take us on the mountainous gravel road above the paper mill because it was closer to our home. The road was so narrow that the only place two cars could travel at the same time was the halfway point. There wasn’t even a guard rail! It seemed like there were times that two of our tires were actually hanging off the edge of the road. It was hard not to picture our car slipping from the narrow gravel road and crashing at the bottom of the mountain.
I’ve flown in airplanes several times and enjoy it. As a kid, I watched Tarzan swing through the trees in the jungle and it looked like a lot of fun but now that I was “zipping” through the trees, my fear of heights was stronger than the fun I was having. However, I was determined to face my fear. After completing the fourth zip line and crossing a couple of ravines on rope bridges, I was pretty sure that my heart was not going to explode. My legs had stopped shaking and I actually began to have some fun.
In fact, I lost count of how many zip lines we had completed.
When I landed on the final tree stand of our tour and began to look for where the next zip line led to, I realized that the only cable I could see was one that went straight down to the ground below. Our guides showed us that the only way to get to the ground would be by repelling from the tree stand. I was chosen to be the first one to leave the tree stand. As I zipped through the trees I had become used to sticking my legs out in front of me and so I repelled from the tree in the same way. I’m sure the people watching me repel laughed as they saw me land on the ground below on my bottom with my legs sticking out in front of me.
Yes, I can laugh about our zip lining experience now. Janie, had a blast and would love to do it again. Me – I’m actually having more fun writing about it than I did doing it. Would I do it again? You bet! Now that I’ve faced my fear and lived to talk about it – I’d do it again. Next time, Janie wants to go on the Super Zip where you leave from a tower that is 85 feet in the air and go at speeds of more than 50 miles an hour. I faced my fear of heights but I’m not sure if I’m ready for the Super Zip. If I do go for it, I’ll keep reminding myself of the following scripture:
Isaiah 41:10 Fear not; for I am with you. Be not dismayed; for I am your God. I will strengthen you; yea, I will help you; yea, I will uphold you with the right hand of My righteousness.
Don’t be afraid to face your fears and overcome them. You might even want to try zip lining. Now that I’ve done zip lining am I ready for sky diving? That’s not going to happen. I think if God wanted me to jump out of an airplane He’d have given me wings!