Today, I had the privilege of watching all the seniors assemble in the football bleachers for their final class picture. I was escorting/supervising a few of my guys who are graduating this year, and I was really excited to be the only one with the flexibility in my schedule to go outside with them.
As I was standing there watching them find seats, I noticed one student, Ben, who was sitting wrong on the bleachers. He was hunkered down behind the seat, sitting next to other students’ feet and his eyes were closed very tightly. I walked over to him to see what was wrong and he told me, with eyes still tightly shut, that he was scared of heights and didn’t want to be up there. This came as a total shock to me … all year, I and my coworkers have coaxed Ben off of many ledges outside. He seemed to have this obsession with climbing on things and then jumping off. Typical boy, I thought. Yet here he was literally paralyzed in fear three rows up from the ground. It made absolutely no sense to me!
Naturally, I pounded out the situation in my head until it made some kind of sense to me. There were only two logical explanations for the contrasting information. I reasoned that possibly, this fear of heights was a new thing, brought on by years of consistently being told in a very panicked voice ( … I’m so guilty here), “Ben, get down! You’re going to fall!” If not, it could be that this fear of heights always existed, in which case Ben’s constantly jumping off of things is his way of defying the fear in him.
The first possibility seems so plausible. I feel like we all have a tendency to develop fears based on things that we hear over and over again. Eventually, we internalize that fear until it becomes our own and we are no longer thinking rationally about things. We are believing everything we’ve heard to deter us from taking the leap of faith, so to speak. Oh, the guilt in me if this is the reason Ben couldn’t even participate in his senior picture. I mean, I know I’m not the only one who’s said that to him, but I hate that I might have been a part of this fear developing in him.
The second possibility also seems plausible. And even worthy of applause! My heart soars thinking of Ben facing his fears in his own way, climbing up on three-feet ledges and jumping off of them every time we went outside. Had I known then what I know now, I would have been his biggest cheerleader! Think of it: a student with disabilities defying his own limitations. I love it! I took a hard look at every limitation I have accepted in my life and wonder, “Do you have what it takes to climb up on the ledge anyway and just jump? Furthermore, are you willing to do it over and over until that fear no longer binds you to limitations?”
When I think about it, both of these situations occur in our lives. The devil tells us over and over that we can’t or won’t ever attain the heights we aspire to reach. We hear it over and over until we believe it and then we sit on the ground staring at the sky watching those who are brave enough soar to the highest heights. They are the ones who dared to climb up on the ledge and jump off, over and over again. Daring one height after another, they eventually overcame the fear and took to the skies! Father, I want to be one of them. I want to defy the fear in me. I want to believe you and trust you, and I want to take leap after leap of faith until I reach the summit and spread my wings. I want to be one who soars above the heights, completely free of earth’s limitations. Father, drown out the fear and encourage me with your spirit until I too am soaring above the clouds!