Scared to Life

“Hey, are you scared of heights?” Doug asked.

I stared back and said, “Uh…not exactly…why?”

It was true. It’s not really heights that scare me, the means from which I view them. I’ve been atop the glass skydeck on the Willis Tower, 104 stories in the sky and loved it. I love roller coasters. But I will not bungee jump. When there’s nothing between me and long drop, that’s what makes me shiver.

Doug told me Anthony needed some help. Anthony is the church’s maintenance man. “He needs some help up on the scissor lift, putting those speakers up in the gym.”

Oh, black dread…

Do you know what a scissor lift is? Here’s a picture.

Normally, that might not be too bad, except that you have to look out over the ledge to see the ground getting farther and farther away. Still, there’s a whole platform on which to stand and a rail to grab. But as you can see, this man is working up against a window, giving the illusion of safety.

Anthony wanted me up in the middle of the gym. No walls on any side, just a rail and the air. And this is a gymnasium. Three-ish stories high, and our ceiling is arched, and we were securing the speakers to the TOP of the ARCHED gymnasium. As high up as we could possibly go, with nothing but a three-story drop in all four directions.

“I tried helping him,” Doug said, “but that platform wobbles and I couldn’t do it.”

Why would you tell me that?

I felt my stomach trembling in my gut and my loins hitched themselves into my belly button. I’d walked by Anthony at the top of the raised scissor lift many times that week and I did not envy him in the slightest. Now he wanted me to go up there and help him do work?

No way, I automatically thought. Not on your life–much less mine! I was terrified. I did NOT want to go up. It’s way too frightening.

But then there came another voice, a wicked, dangerous, untamed voice that said, “That’s exactly why you should go up: because you’re scared.”

I’ve been reading Wild at Heart by John Eldridge, and rediscovering my masculine identity. All my life, I’ve played it safe, tried to be a nice guy and go by the rules. While both are good, they do not wholly satisfy a man’s heart. We’re made for adventure, for the thrill of life, in whatever form it takes. Sometimes, it’s leaving your secure job to follow your dreams. Sometimes it’s riding the roller coaster of your wife’s emotions instead of leaving her for a “simpler” relationship.

For me, it was facing my own fears. I was scared to go up in that scissor lift, and that’s exactly why I wanted to go up. I wanted to do something that terrified me. Why? So fear would not hold me back, to embrace the danger of adventure.

So with much shaking and absolutely no air in my lungs, I climbed inside with Anthony. I watched the ground slowly depart and the ceiling grow nearer. I reached up and touched the top of the arched ceiling of our three-story gymnasium. I reached over and pulled a cable that tilted the speakers back to a better angle, and tightened the cords into their sockets. I walked twice across the platform, though it shook under my feet.

And when the lift descended back to the ground, I realized how alive I felt.

It’s a funny thing, courage. G.K. Chesterton said, “It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die…to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying…desire life like water and yet drink death like wine.”

When have you found life, dancing along the skirts of death?

The hanging speakers of manliness.
They’re about as tall as I am, just to get some perspective.
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