When I was 8 or 9 years old, I went to the Northern Minnesota Masabi Iron range – which had some incredibly huge open pit iron mines. At this one pit in particular, they had blasted the wall and dug down so deep that it was to the point that the wall was a sheer cliff several hundred feet straight down. I was with my dad and my mom and my uncle – who was my absolute hero…I loved him more than life itself. We were just walking along the fence at the top of the Iron Ore pit when we stopped at a particular spot. My uncle – who had just returned from Viet Nam on leave – decided he would be funny and grabbed me by my belt at the back of my pants and straight-arm lifted me over the edge of the cliff and just held
me there – several hundred feet in midair. I will never forget the feeling of absolute paralysis – the inability to do anything about my predicament. I didn’t dare move. I could feel this coldness sweep over me like a flood. I remember screaming like I saw a monster or something. At some point he brought me back and set me on the ground (my mother’s screaming may have had something to do with it). I remember running to hug a pole – so thankful to be back on solid ground – and my parents had a hard time getting me to let go.
I can tell you that growing up as a result of that, I had a severe fear of heights. I could not stand on the edge of a one story roof top without that same feeling of fear. Let me fast forward several years. I am a brand new Christian going with my youth group to a Christian Adventure camp in Wyoming. Whitewater canoeing, swimming, rodeoing, horseback riding, and ….rock climbing. I was looking forward to it because I loved adventure. But while the rest of the guys were scampering up the rocks, I was safe and content at the bottom of the cliffs. There was no way I was going up there. The problem was the rest of the group. Everybody else was rappelling – it was my turn. I didn’t want to seem “weird” or a chicken. They finally coaxed me and I eased my way up the trail and got me to climb what was pretty much a cake walk stair-step rock climb to the top – but for me it was terror the entire way. When I got to the top, and got the gear on, it was, again, absolute paralysis just like those years prior. I remember being frozen on the edge of the cliff. I couldn’t do it. They had to talk to me for nearly an hour to get me to go over with full gear on. I was now in survival mode. Finally, a leader harnessed up next to me and went down right beside me. I remember the sense of relief I felt – I was not in this alone. I finally made it to the bottom, white knuckles, scraped up knees, barely breathing.
Fear of heights – it rocked my world. And it dictated what I could do, and what I could not do. 4 years later I was asked to return to this same camp to work on staff. The man Wes Walton put me in charge of the entire program and the chapel services – since I played guitar. I was the music and I was…you guessed it….the rock climbing/rappelling instructor! Don’t think for a minute that my fears of heights had vanished.
The first time I had to lead a group to the top – it was a small group – was a test of steel. How did I overcome my fear and function? It was a mental battle that nobody on the outside had even a clue about. Ferocious. By this time in my life, I had all new tools to deal with things. I knew God’s Word –
2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
So I have this nerve-racking fear, but I also have this alleged “power” and “sound mind.” Sure didn’t seem like it! Nonetheless, I knew the knots I had to tie, I knew the harness, I knew the safety system, I knew to hook into 2 anchors
minimum, and 3 if at all possible. Safety was not the problem. Each item of the gear would hold thousands of pounds – so that part was also a slam dunk.
So why was I afraid? The truth of the matter was that there was no rational reason for this fear. Everything was bomb-proof. I looked my fear square on and said for it to go away in Jesus’ Name. I knew it was a spirit of fear – the exact spirit that God said He had NOT given me.
1 Corinthians 2:12, Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.
That means I know who DID give it to me. I also knew that the power within me was greater than any power in the world.
1 John 4:4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
So I was able to proceed. The fear was still there in the background – taunting me, but I was the one in control. I could laugh with the kids, I could harness up next to one who was crippled in fear like I was, and help talk them over the edge.
Over the years, I have rock climbed and rappelled hundreds of times. I have led groups as well as my own family. Don’t
let fear rob you of joy, or of the opportunity to do things that will stretch you.
Fear weighs you down. It consumes your mind. It makes you sick. It leads to depression. It leads you into bondage. It is also a doorway for demonic activity to enter your life, or at least your surroundings. It lets Satan know you will obey fear.
Remember the commercial, “Obey Your Thirst”? Well, when we give way to fear, and let it rule our lives, we tell Satan that we will obey his fear instead of trust God. So the question is: How do you get rid of bad fear? You replace it with something bigger and more powerful! Who would that be?
Now, to be clear, there is also a good fear. We need to have a healthy respect of heights, or we could fall and be hurt or even die. We need to have a healthy fear or respect of electricity. We also need to fear or respect God. But these fears actually lead to freedom, not bondage. For example:
Proverbs 9:10-11, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by me your days will be multiplied, and years of life will be added to you.”
Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge”
Malachi 4:2, “But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.”
In each of these cases, the fear of God resulted in something good. My fear of heights robbed me of the joy of doing fun and adventurous things. Never, in 30+ years has anyone EVER gotten hurt on my watch while climbing or rappelling. And a whole lot of fun has been experienced! And by the way, my kids are like spiders on the rocks – all over the place! They LOVE IT!