A treasured memory in our family is the year we took our kids to Family Camp. There we faced the ominous high ropes course. Looking up at the 30-foot pamper pole, our 7-year-old girl began listing her reservations. The objective was to climb the telephone-like pole, stand precariously on top, then leap into thin air to grasp a dangling trapeze bar. It was ominous indeed. Many adults refused to try, but I could see that while she was afraid, Hannah really wanted to do it. With anxiety, she looked to me for confidence. If I hesitated, said a discouraging word or even looked anxious, she would give in to the fear holding her back.
"Go for it!" I told her. "You’ll have a safety harness. You can do it!”
Bolstered by my conviction, she began the climb as I cheered. When she froze at the top with a whimper, I cheered louder. Thankfully, she couldn’t hear her brother beside me predicting her doom: “She's gonna die."
From a brief moment, I thought she might, too. My baby was 30 feet in the air clinging to a pole! What kind of mother was I? Oh my gosh, she could die!
She did not die. As I got hold of my momentary panic and remembered that she was held tight in a harness that would not fail her, I kept cheering. After a short conversation with herself, she gathered her courage and pushed past the impossibilities of her situation. Standing on the tippy top of that pole, Hannah closed her eyes and leaped into thin air to reach for the trapeze. Instead, she fell earthward in the safety of her harness. She never touched the trapeze, but the trapeze was never the goal. Having the faith to leap was the real aim.
This week, when all I hear are voices of doom and gloom in the face of pandemics, stock market crashes and toilet paper shortages, recalling Hannah’s story reminds me of the power of even one voice of hope. When things look impossible and the obstacles overwhelming, a solitary voice of perspective can be the difference between paralyzing discouragement or that leap of faith.
One of the most infamous examples of this reality is found in Israel’s history. Finally making it to the promised land after 400 years in bondage, the hopeful wandering nation finds the land occupied. Moses, their leader, sent 12 men to secretly explore the territory and come back with a full report.
This was their report to Moses: “We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey… But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak! … Next to them we felt like grasshoppers… Numbers 13:27-28, 33
As the people heard the list of reservations, fear began to take hold. The situation seemed impossible. But Caleb, one of the men who saw the same obstacles, remembered the safety harness of God’s promises to give Israel the land and be with them wherever they went. So he started to cheer.
“Let’s go at once to take the land,” he said. “We can certainly conquer it! ” Numbers 13:30
But his voice was drowned out by those whose focus was on their weakness not God’s strength – and they refused to leap.
What a powerful reminder of the importance of surrounding ourselves with people (and being people) who believe God and declare it boldly, who reject fear, and trust God enough to face whatever giants are before us (with or without toilet paper).
Who and how will you cheer today?