Friday, November 19, 2010

Don't Be Afraid

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her... (Ephesians 5:25)

I stared up at the wall and froze. Tears flowed down my cheeks. I tried to slow my breathing, but it wasn’t happening. This 15-20 foot scaling wall stood before me, two fellow orientation leaders at the top encouraging me that they would help me over. It didn’t matter - my fear of heights was kicking in. It wasn’t the climbing and getting down that freaked me out - it was standing up there without a harness, knowing that I could fall at any time that was causing my panic.

My friends came around me and tried their hardest to encourage me, but that didn’t matter either. Suddenly, this guy who I’d never met before that day wearing a Hawaiian shirt and shorts came towards me. He grabbed my hands, looked in my eyes, and said in a firm tone: 

“You can do this. I know you can. You can get up that wall, you can stand up there, and you can get down. I know you can. I’ll be on the other side waiting for you.”

And with that - he walked away, went around to the other side of the wall, and waited. I felt somehow calmer, turned around, and climbed the wall to the cheers of the rest of the staff. Sure enough, that same guy was at the bottom of the wall on the other side, arms crossed looking up at me, making sure I was OK. He was still there when I got down just like he promised, and gave me a big smile and a pat on the back. “See?” he said. “I knew you could do it.”

Ten years later I was sitting in Disney’s Hollywood Studios on a ledge in between the Rock N’ Roller Coaster and the Tower of Terror. My chest was tightening. My breathing was getting shallow. I looked at the Fast-Pass in my hand for the Tower, looked up as screams came from the windows that were opening and closing, and knew exactly what was happening. My darned fear of heights was kicking in again - which wasn’t unusual for this ride, but this was worse than normal. Even though most of my brain knows that the Tower of Terror isn’t really freefall - it’s actually a series of cables PULLING you down, not dropping you - each year getting on the ride is a process of conquering my fears. As a result (and a secret love of all things horror) - it’s my favorite ride.

March 2010 was a bad time for me to gear up to get on the ride, apparently.

Steve walked towards me coming out of the bathroom and noticed I wasn’t quite right. “What’s wrong?”

“My fear of heights is kicking in. I don’t know why. It’s bad though - this isn’t how I normally get before getting on this ride. Usually I’m just a little nervous.”

He took a deep breath and paused for a moment, thinking. Then that look came back on his face that I’d only ever seen once before. He took the Fast-Pass from me, grabbed my hand and said “Come on. We’re going on it right now. We have the Fast-Passes so you won’t have to wait in line long. You’re not going to let the panic win, this is your favorite ride.”

We headed right into the line and didn’t wait more than 5 minutes before the stoic cast member opened the doors to the elevator. We got in our seats, put on our seat belts, went through the ride opener, and heard the magic words:

“You have just entered... the Twilight Zone...”

THUD.... then Steve my hand... then the elevator moved...

Steve & I in front of the Tower of Terror

For those who have never been on the Tower of Terror, Disney simulates a free-falling haunted elevator with a mind of its own on this ride. It does this by using a cable pull that pulls you down and pushes you up in a computer generated random pattern. No two times that you ride the Tower of Terror will ever be the same. From an engineering perspective - it’s actually really cool. I’ve been on this ride at least a dozen times.

This was the first time that the ride went UP when the elevator went dark when I’ve been on it. Not sure if that’s of any remarkable note or not - I just know I thought it was interesting that in my time of panic of being dropped... I first went up. (There’s probably a separate devotional in there somewhere... but anyways...)

When the ride was over and Steve had recovered from his vertigo (that he lovingly suffers every year for the benefit of me not needing to ride this thing by myself), he looked at me and asked how I was doing. When I said I was fine, exhilarated, pumped, and glad I went on the ride... he smiled, put his arm around my shoulders, and said “See? I knew you could beat that panic. Wanna go again?”

I took one look at my husband’s pale white face and I made the executive decision - no. Once a year is good enough - I beat my fear, I got my excitement in, no need to make him further ill. 

See here’s the thing... neither Steve nor I are always great at filling our parts for the perfect Ephesians 5 husband and wife. I’m a stubborn person that isn’t always great at submitting and trusting my husband (Eph. 5:22) - and Steve is a stubborn person who is more pragmatic and task-oriented than constantly in tune with emotions, so turning to “love” isn’t always his immediate nature (Eph. 5:25).  But most of the time and ESPECIALLY when it counts - my husband is absolutely fantastic at loving me as Christ loved the church. 

Up until the time we started dating, whenever anyone mentioned Steve’s name - to me he wasn’t that goofy kid that always wore Hawaiian shirts and liked to play with computers. To me - he was always that kid that helped me over the wall. Someone who stepped up and showed me care and was the only person who was able to penetrate through my panic to help me get over my fears, to ease my mind. At the time - neither of us knew that we’d be married 7 years later and that the same thing that happened that day would happen again in the middle of Disney World.

But God did.

That evening Jesus’ disciples went down to the shore to wait for him. But as darkness fell and Jesus still hadn’t come back, they got into the boat and headed across the lake toward Capernaum. Soon a gale swept down upon them, and the sea grew very rough. They had rowed three or four miles when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified, but he called out to them, “Don’t be afraid. I am here!” Then they were eager to let him in the boat, and immediately they arrived at their destination! (John 6:16-21)

My fear of heights is like a boat in a storm to the apostles. And in the middle of my panic on those rare occasions when it sets in - I can count on my husband to reach out his hand, look in my eyes, and with loads of love he’ll lead me through the storms. It won’t just be my fear of heights. There might be times when money will be tight, when our relationship might be rocky, when my parents will be sick, when we might have issues with our future children and I will be uneasy, probably even panicky. But I know that when I panic - Steve will take my hand...

He will say as Jesus tells us: “Don’t be afraid. I am here.”

And for that - I am blessed.

No comments: