Saturday, October 24, 2015

Birthday Lessons from the Trees

For my birthday this year I wanted to do something a little different than the standard dinner with friends. I suggested several of us go to an outdoor adventure park with ropes courses and ziplining. I’m thankful to have so many friends that are game for an adventure. Even apart from the satisfaction of trying something new, we all walked away with important lessons. Here are a few of mine.

1.       It’s not all fun
While the overall park experience was fun, I can’t say that every moment was fun. There was one particular course where we had to skateboard on a zipline through the trees. You were harnessed in, of course, but that offered no real comfort when all you had to grab onto was the rope overhead. I didn’t love it. I wanted it to be over. That’s kind of how life is sometimes. Some experiences just have to be endured until you get to the next moment.

2.       It’s easier if you enjoy the ride
I’ve shared before how hard it is for me to let go in life. This is true in relationships and in seasons of time. Interestingly enough, what I noticed in the trees was that every obstacle that required holding on was much more difficult for me. I was desperately clinging and afraid to fall. I was much more anxious and it was a struggle to balance. It was just harder all around. But each time I could just zipline or let go and ride, it was the most fun I had. There’s surprising joy in just letting go and enjoying the ride.

3.       There’s always a trust fall
It seems that in every camp or wilderness experience, leadership or corporate retreat, there’s always a trust fall of some form or another. This park was no different. In fact, it was the grand finale of most of the courses. All you have to do is step off a platform of variable heights and land safely on the ground. “All you have to do,” right? It’s much easier said than done. Oh yeah, and there’s no safety exit. Stepping off is the only way down. So it is with life. When all your back up plans and emergency exits and maneuvers to self-protect are eliminated, all you can do is step forward and trust.

It’s fascinating how engaging the body in action can tap into things that wouldn’t otherwise be accessed through words. It’s one thing to talk abstractly about letting go and quite another to feel the sensation of it in my body. It makes it concrete and real. It shifts it from merely mental ascent to a genuine faith- faith that there’s purpose in the process and joy in the journey.