I pulled out my laptop ready to type something inspirational about something amazing that God had done for me. But before my fingers hit the keys, a memory stopped me.
I was about five years old. Dressed in what was probably horribly mismatched clothing thanks to Mom and Dad, I remember running to the park on the corner. There were small playgrounds, workout stations, a track and field, something for people of all ages but what I remember the most were the set of bars. There was nothing special about these bars. They looked like typical fireman poles spaced maybe three or four feet apart. Gray, metal and appearing to reach into the clouds. If you could climb to the top, you would be sitting next to the angels. However, being metal meant if you slipped, you would most likely get a burn on your hand or callouses just from climbing. That thought hadn’t even crossed my mind when I ran up to my favorite bars. Today was the day I was determined to reach the top. I was a wild little kid who wasn’t afraid to do anything. My parents were always chasing me around telling me to stop jumping from this, climbing onto that but nothing would stop me today. My hands gripped the bars and my ankles hugged tight when I jumped onto the bar. I looked up at the top and pulled myself closer, using what was showing of my ankle to hold the bar tight. My pants were too slippery to be of use and I had to carefully pull up the legs to expose my skin around my ankles for a better grip. I kept scooting closer to the top with every pull. The excitement rose the closer I got to the clouds. When I finally reached the top, the bar evened out and provided a nice place for me to sit. The thought of falling didn’t even cross my mind as I admired the view around me. Fear wasn’t an emotion I often felt as a child but excitement was. I admired the view around me and giggled at the people doing embarrassing things because they didn’t think anyone was looking. One old man picked a wedgie, another child picked his nose, and I was on top of the world. Meanwhile, my grandmother came running and yelling something about safety from a hundred miles below. I remember rolling my eyes at how scared older people were. My friends my own age weren’t afraid to try new things and be adventurous. It was always the old people that were freaking out and that was annoying to me. I didn’t want to catch their scared-of-everything disease.
I think I could learn something from my five year old self. When did I learn to be so afraid? Worst of all, when did I learn to be afraid to live? Where did all of my courage go? When did I learn that sitting in the back watching all the time was fine? Where did I learn all of the excuses I use now to get out of trying something new? When did I get so comfortable?
Now that I’m twenty, I think the moment I lost some of this courage was when I fell from a cliff. I had been climbing with some friends and decided to go a new route. There was a crevice at the top of the mountain that led to a small trail that circled the rocks and ended at a ledge that wasn’t very wide. There was a twenty foot rock wall and another trail around another boulder. We decided we couldn’t go back the way we came because that was lame. Pride stepped in and I volunteered to try climbing the wall. One of my friends decided to go the other route and meet me at the top in case I needed help. Pft, as if I would need help. I’m independent, in shape and a great climber. We had just walked on a trail less than a foot wide that had a drop off that would end our lives. We did it without even looking down or with any thought of fear. A twenty foot wall would be nothing. It was for the first couple feet. By the time I had reached fifteen feet in height, one of my friends was also on the wall below me, following my footsteps. He kept asking if I was alright. I turned around finally and began to tell him I was fine. Then I woke up on the ground to the sound of yelling and people making sure I was alright. I was so annoyed and kept pushing people away from me. I tried to sit up but my shoulders screamed at me. I looked at my hands and saw that they were covered in blood. What happened? I felt like I had just woken up from a pleasant nap where I was twirling in space next to the stars. I assessed the pain of my body. My head pounded as if someone were nailing something into my brain. That’s my brain not a wall! My nose and lip felt as if it had decided to gain ten pounds. My lip was puffier than I remembered and when my hand was pulled away, there was blood. I wanted to look in the mirror and my friend reluctantly handed me his phone. Tears rolled down my face when I saw that my beauty had been stolen. There were rocks embedded above my upper lip and my right eye was slowly shutting due to a swollen nose. I threw the phone away from me and forced myself to sit up. I didn’t want anybody to see me the way I was. When I approached the small trail around the boulder, fear swept in and drowned me. My feet planted themselves in the ground and refused to move. A stranger came and carried me the entire way as I sobbed. I was so embarrassed. My friend offered a shirt to hold on my lip but I used it mainly to hide my face. I had turned into a beast. The shirt started a deep purple and by the time we got in the car, the shirt had morphed into an even deeper red.
When we pulled into the hospital and finally sat down, the pain came. My head continued to pound, my eye was swelling shut, my nose ached, my lip was numb, my shoulders were screaming, my ribs were sore, my legs refused to move and my heart was heavy. The diagnosis was: bad concussion, broken nose, 14 stitches above my lip, scratches and bruises everywhere else. The doctors were amazed that that was all I had endured. I was so angry. That was all I endured?! I was told I may never speak again and my face was taken from me. I had nothing left to offer anybody. Somewhere along the road, I had begun to believe that my looks were all I had to offer the world. If that was gone, I would lose all my friends and no one would like me. I decided nobody could see me like this.
Wrestling with God is exhausting. Over and over again He showed me that people loved me even though my looks were gone. Over and over again He showed me that people loved me for what I had to offer as a person. Over and over again He showed me that I was more than a pretty face. Over and over again He began to erase the lies I had begun to believe.
Once I finally decided to be brave enough to believe there was more to me than a pretty face, the healing begun inside and out. My eye opened, my nose required no surgery and my swelling all but disappeared. My speech came back minus the ability to spell and use proper grammar but over time, everything returned to normal. I was no longer trapped in my head but able to speak again. All that was left was a scar above my lip from the stitches that I have to this day. It reminds me of that unusual teacher, the fifteen foot cliff.
I lost my courage that day but I gained an understanding of what I had to offer: me. Sometimes, I’m brave enough to remember what God did for me. Most of the time, I’m not but that’s okay now. We once again go back to wrestling and He reminds me of that cliff and the people that stuck by me. Now I understand why the Bible says we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We’re terrifying creatures. Well, not exactly. But maybe God is afraid to lose us to the lies of the world. Maybe He’s afraid we’ll lose the courage He equipped us with. Maybe He’s afraid we’ll lose sight of who He made us to be. Then once again we wrestle until we lose. The great news is that when we lose, we win. We win back the vision that we thought we had lost. We win back the bravery to love and live loved once again.
Suddenly wrestling doesn’t sound so bad as long as I don’t have to wear a singlet.