Last weekend my kids and I visited Camp Lebanon with some of our favorite friends. This church camp turns into a parent's haven on the weekend, allowing families to enjoy the camp's features–paddle boats, canoes, a beach with water slides and (as my kids say), "a ginormous camp fire."
One of the attractions is the zip line. "Why do I have to be ten years old to go on it, Mommy?" Jordan asked me about six times. Standing on his tip-toes, he tried to instantly grow a few years. I kept promising we would come back again when he was old enough. It never dawned on me that I was old enough.
My new companion joined us for the weekend with his two daughters and purchased two tickets to try the ride. His girls weren't old enough either. As the guides suited him up with a climbing harness and shoulder straps, I teased that if I had my own ticket I could go with him since the zip line had two parallel cables for two people to go together. Holding up both passes he said, "I only need to use one–you're going."
Immediately, my heart was thumping the way it does before I speak on stage. He called my bluff and now I was looking for a way out, which was not easy with four little voices cheering me on, "You can do it! You can do it!"
My friend Cindy and her husband pulled out their cameras to capture the Kodak moment. How did things turn so fast? I went from innocent observer to volunteered participant. I hate being selected for committees I don't want to join! But, what I hate more is failing a test–ultimately missing out.
When challenged, something stirs inside of me. Pride? Curiosity? Stupidity? I want to see if I can overcome the obstacle. The kids were given permission to walk me up the hill to the wooden platform. Here we encountered the committee chair (another guide who was about 18 years old).
I asked him what I had to do.
"Just step off the platform," he told me.
"When?" I asked.
"Whenever you are ready," he replied, not helpful as I couldn't think of a time I would ever be ready.
"Will you count?" I asked.
"Not usually, but if that would help you I could," he said.
I looked down into the pine-green valley 100 feet below–I couldn't see the ground. The canopy of trees looked like they would swallow me. My mouth had that cotton taste and I started breathing more deliberately. I have never been one that enjoys amusement parks, roller coasters, or my stomach knotting. I tried not to think about how I was at the same height as a four-story building.
"Okay, I will go when the kids count off." These little cheerleaders wasted no time to let their voices ring over the trees to the other side where our camera crew awaited.
One, two, three…
I stepped off the platform.
Immediately, delight filled me. The ride didn't go as fast as I thought it would. It lasted less than two minutes, but the sights below me seemed to spray in slow motion. I felt ultra awake and aware–flying above the trees, the vastness of nature surrounded every part of me. The air was cool and calming. I started to scream as we came to the landing point–not from fear but out of pure fun. "I loved it! I loved it!" I repeated to my friends. The guide unlocked my safety hook with a smirk that said I knew you would like it.
My friends asked me what it was like.
"The first step was the hardest," I said. "After that everything was peaceful." I felt like I was ten, unable to wipe the smile off my face.
Walking down the hill towards the dinner hall, I was overwhelmed by the metaphor of my first zip line ride. The first step is the hardest. This is true in many accounts of life–grief, weight loss, trying something new, an unattractive project, seeing something to completion, improving a relationship, reaching a goal.
The first step it is the hardest. The first step is also a step closer to peace.