Face Your Fears—Even If Your Knees Are Knocking

by | Aug 10, 2011 | Blogs, Fire in My Bones

I learned some important lessons about courage last
weekend while I was dangling in midair.

I
am not a daredevil. I have never bungie-jumped off a cliff, parachuted out of
an airplane or spent any time in a shark cage. But when my friend Michael Cole
from Christ for the Nations Institute (CFNI) asked me
to speak at a leadership retreat in Ohio—and he informed me that we would be
participating in a high ropes course on Saturday afternoon—I said to myself, Bring
on the challenge!
I thought it would be fun!

I
was wrong.

“I knew the harness would hold me if I fell, but that information did not
translate well from my brain to my knocking knees. Fear defies the facts
.

Before
I describe the terror I faced when I stood on a thin metal cable 25 feet above
the ground, let me give some backstory. The night before this aereonautical
challenge, I spoke to a group of leaders from Tabernacle of
Praise, a church Michael pastored for several years before moving to CFNI
in Dallas. We had gathered at the Heartland camp near Marengo, Ohio, for a time of worship, teaching and
fellowship.

On
Friday night I shared a message about the life of Gideon from Judges 6. It was
called “Swallow Your Fears,” and I pointed out how Gideon received supernatural
courage from God so he could tear down the pagan altar in his father’s house
and lead a small army into battle. After that session, people gathered in
groups, confessed their fears and prayed for each other.

The
next day, after another teaching session and some great group problem solving
exercises, about 15 of us headed to the high ropes area in the back of the camp
property. I didn’t feel even a tinge of fear when we put on our helmets and harnesses.
And I wasn’t nervous when Tyler, the ropes instructor, assured us that the
cables could easily hold 50,000 pounds.

I
was so sure of my agility (after all, I’m an Eagle Scout) that I volunteered to
climb the telephone pole first. I didn’t expect to feel any fear of heights
since I’m a frequent flyer. But when I finished snapping my clamps to the guide
wire, stepped on the cable and looked down at the others, my knees turned into
jelly. I was literally trembling.

My
friends on the ground were nervous too, especially Michael—who was responsible
for bringing me to this event. I looked across the expanse and mentally
measured how far I had to walk (it was at least 60 feet) while holding on to
4-foot-long sections of rope that were hung 3 feet apart. I was wobbling from
side to side, and the stress was making me sweat.

Fear
has a paralyzing effect. For several minutes I just stayed in one spot. I have
never wanted to quit something so badly. I wanted to turn around, climb down
the pole and get out of there. I even yelled to Michael: “Why did I do this,
bro?”

I
took a step and almost fell, so I held on tighter to the harness straps. In
fact, I was gripping the straps so tightly that I strained a tendon in my
elbow. I knew the harness would hold me if I fell, but that information did not
translate well from my brain to my knocking knees. Fear defies the facts.

Finally
one of the instructors said I would feel steadier if I would hold on to the
dangling ropes from the very highest point. So I scooted a few inches forward,
grabbed the next rope at the top and held on. He was right. I wasn’t quivering
as much.

I
inched across the wire for what seemed like an eternity. I finally faced my
fears and swallowed them. I made it to the next telephone pole, sat down on the
platform and felt my heart pumping extra hard. My emotions were mixed: I was
glad it was over, exhilerated from the adrenaline rush, and embarrassed that I
looked like such a goofy wimp in front of my friends (who never made any
wisecracks about my performance). The lessons I learned about fear:

LeeMikeRopes1
Ready for the challenge: Lee Grady (left)
with Michael Cole from Christ for the Nations

#1.
Leaders will be tested.
Don’t preach to others about courage unless you are
willing to live your message. God will arrange your circumstances to challenge
your fears.

#2.
Don’t focus on your quivering emotions.
Like Peter when he stepped out of
the boat into the sea, we all are tempted to sink when we look at stormy
circumstances. Let faith transcend your feelings.

#3.
Listen to voices of encouragement.
I would never have made it across the
tightrope if I had been on that wire in the middle of the woods by myself. I
needed my friends to spur me forward. Don’t be a lone ranger. We need each
other to conquer our fears.

#4.
Reach higher.
The higher I held the guide ropes, the steadier I became. The
same applies to you in whatever trial you are facing. Reach up to God and hold
onto Him. He will steady you—and even if you fall He will catch you. Remember
this promise from Jeremiah 17:7: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
and whose trust is the Lord.”

We
are in a scary season, and many people are fainting. Don’t let fear paralyze
you. Don’t get stuck, and don’t turn back. God will give you the courage to
advance.

J. Lee Grady is contributing
editor of Charisma. You
can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. His most recent book is 10 Lies Men Believe (Charisma House).

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