I want to share a story from this past week. It’s not necessarily related to being a husband, but I thought it was cool…
This past Friday was Eli’s 7th birthday. I always look forward to his birthdays because he loves them SO much! We try to always make it a special day where we spend the whole day with him doing things he wants and eat the foods he wants. So, last Friday I took the day off work and we spent it together as a family. We started by going out for breakfast getting some donuts and then eating at Starbucks while he played on the iPad. Later in the morning we played some board games together. Then, we went out to Moe’s to eat and went to Escalade, an indoor rock climbing gym. He had never been rock climbing before and was really excited.
Things were going well at first. He thought it was the coolest place ever. They have some cool kids areas where you can climb and slide on stuff. And he did a couple climbs making it all the way to the top. But what was giving him trouble was not the climbing…it was belaying back down. The first couple climbs he was scared to let go of the wall to go back down, especially on the walls that have the auto-belay systems. If you’re not familiar with what that is, basically the rope is attached to a device at the top of the wall that automatically lowers you down when you’re done or if you fall. It can be scary though because you have to fall for a second before the resistance catches up.
After we had been there a while, he and I were both climbing on routes right next to each other. He made it all the way to the top but REFUSED to let go to get back down. He wanted to down climb the route, but I wouldn’t let him (it’s not safe and if I let him do it once, he would never go back). Even though he had rappelled down a few times already, he was frozen with fear about letting go. I tried every way of convincing him it was going to be ok, but nothing would work. He was crying and saying how this was the worst birthday he’s ever had. I was devastated that this fun day was leaving such a negative impression on him. After about 10 minutes of sitting at the top of the wall (and crying and talking), I FINALLY convinced him to go down with me. We held hands and went at the same time.
I was glad he made it down, but sad that I was expecting this to be the end of our climbing trip and a scarring mark on what would be remembered as the worst birthday ever. After we were down though, we went over and talked with Julia about it asking him how he felt and what he had been afraid of. I’ll never forget the look in his face when he looked back up at the wall and in a serious and determined voice said, “I want to do it again.” I was shocked but so excited for him. Maybe this wouldn’t be a disaster after all!
After making sure he really DID want to do it…and he assured us he wasn’t going to stay at the top of the wall again, he clipped in and took off. He made it up the wall quickly and I held my breath as he readied himself at the top. From down at the bottom I heard him talk outloud to himself saying, “Eli…you can do this!” And then without hesitation he let go and rappelled down!
There have been very few times in life where I was MORE proud of him than that moment. We didn’t push him to do it at all. He was SO scared of something, and on his own he decided he wanted to overcome that fear. And so he did it…and then he did it again…and then he did it again. He had a BLAST! He remembers being afraid, but even more significantly, he remembers overcoming that fear and the fun that he had.
That experience made me think about who I am. Anytime I’ve ever done something I didn’t want to do, or faced something I was afraid of, my reaction was definitely NOT, “I want to do it again.” My 7 year old son knew and lived out something that I rarely do. He went through something he didn’t want to do, but instead of wiping his brow and moving on, he stared it in the face and took it on again. Not because he craves the thrill or because we made him, but because he “wanted to face the fear” and overcome it. He knew that by doing it again, he was going to be able to not be limited by fear which will free him up for awesomeness.
How many times do we NOT do something because we’re afraid? Maybe it’s a fear of…
- having a conversation with someone that you’re dreading
- making new friends
- taking a risk at work
- starting a new career
- having kids
- learning to do a household chore that you’ve never done
- volunteering in a ministry that you feel you should but really don’t want to.
My challenge to you (and me):
Usually in these situation, it’s easy to just move on and avoid the conflict of fear or the action you don’t want to do. But, often these situations are good for us. If you DO force yourself to face the fear, often good things will emerge from it. So, my challenge for MYSELF is not to let my 7 year old show me up. I want to learn from his bravery.