Ropes Course

One of my favorite things about the Mount Hermon Writers Conference is its location amidst towering redwoods. Humor me, I live in the flatlands of Oklahoma where trees are basically just overgrown shrubs.

Mount Hermon’s ancient sentinels form a tranquil forest world where you can’t help but hear the voice of God whispering through the leaves.

This year my friend Robin attends the conference with me. She finds me one afternoon, a big smile on her face. “Hey, I just signed up for the ropes course. Wanna do it with me?”

“Mount Hermon has a ropes course?” You’d think I’d know, considering all the years I’ve come here. Then again, maybe I do know, but my brain temporarily misplaced the data. Conference-induced sleep deprivation does that to me. “What’s the course for?”

Robin grins. “Climbing, I guess. Sounds like an adventure.”

Sleep deprivation also hinders gross motor skills. I picture myself dangling upside-down by one ankle hopelessly tangled in a rope ladder.

“I think I’m a no.”

Later that day, I see one space left on the signup form. Maybe Robin’s right about adventure. People say stuff like this is fun, and I’ve never been on a ropes course in my life. I should seize the day. I’m probably not too old.

Sleep deprivation impairs judgment, too.

I show up at the meeting spot and find a group of instructors all decked out in harnesses and helmets. They stand next to a tarp with more sets of gear on it.

Hmm. Fancy. Is this the norm or do they just like buckles here? Where’s the course, anyway?

The sound of voices wafts down.

From really high up.

In the trees.

Oh dear.

The course—and why no one explained this sooner, I don’t know—is a cable-and-rope jungle gym, where you tight-rope walk over obstacles, climb nets, walk on trapeze-like swings that swing, cross bridges best described as scant, and in general, willingly maneuver yourself from hazard to hazard.

80 feet up.

Who thought this was a good idea?

Let me confess. I’m afraid of heights.

That’s not entirely accurate. I’m afraid of plummeting from a great height. I mean, not so much the falling part, but the splat at the end. That’s what I have a problem with.

Our instructors smile at us as if no one dies here on a regular basis.

I squint at the treetops. Maybe there’s a lower-tier, scaredy-cat area, like the bunny hill at a ski resort.


But I do see a bunch of third graders up there having a jolly time.

Do their parents know they’re doing this?

Robin hustles over to me, excitement shining in her eyes. “I’m so glad you came! They said we need partners, so let’s be together, okay?”


How can I chicken out? There are happy children up there.

The guides take us step-by-step through the whole routine of harnesses, cables, and clasps. Apparently it’s impossible to unclip both safety clasps at the same time, so even in sleep deprivation, I can’t screw this up.

Unless I fall out of the harness.

I cinch the straps tighter around my thighs.

Then tighter yet.

Think tourniquet.

Yeah, okay, loss of blood flow and all that makes it a little risky for my legs, but hey, would I rather lose a limb or plummet to my death?

I hobble behind the group to the training area where the instructors guide us through practice until we prove adept at righting ourselves if we lose our footing. Sounds tricky but we actually manage this in a few short minutes.

Then they send us off.

I mean up.

Much too soon, I stand atop the launch platform, looking down at a whole lot of empty air. A gal could fall a long way.

But my harness is tight, my buckles are fastened, and both clasps are secured to the cable.

It dawns on me…I have a choice to make.

I could carry my fear from tree to tree to tree, or I could trust my gear to keep me safe.

I take another peak over the edge.

My insides do a splat preview.


My gear will keep me safe.

The moment I commit to that choice, my tension sheds like a second skin, and I breathe in the sweet scent of redwoods and pine.

Trust changes everything. (Click to tweet this)

I step off the platform into delight, into adventure. Into the wild whisper of God rustling through the leaves. My whole body tastes the freedom of doing scary things without fear.

I swing, I climb, I dance over bridges.

How simple it all is, this understanding God whispered amidst the leaves.

The difference between fear and adventure is trust. (Click to tweet this)

Oh, that I could live my whole life forever embodying this truth. Because God whispers other things to me, too—hard scary things he wants me to embrace with abandon.

I don’t have to run, I don’t have to fear. I only have to step off the launch platform, convinced every moment that God Almighty holds me tightly in his safety harness, with unbreakable cables and idiot-proof clasps.

No matter what tasks God gives me, no matter what trials I face.

Or what hardships…because there will be those.

My God’s got me.

Sign me up for the adventure.


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4 Comments on What Are You Afraid Of?

  1. Robin Patchen
    October 1, 2015 at 8:18 am (9 years ago)

    I smiled from the second I saw your post, and I’m still smiling. That day will be forever etched in my heart. And this–“The difference between fear and adventure is trust”–that is an amazing truth! Thank you for sharing and reminding me that I was made for adventure. We all were!

    • Erin Taylor Young
      October 3, 2015 at 9:12 pm (9 years ago)

      It really was a fun day. Yay for adventure! I’m SO glad you suggested the ropes course! Thanks!

  2. Diana
    October 2, 2015 at 1:43 pm (9 years ago)

    You look very adventurous up there, Erin! Such fun. I haven’t wanted to get in the trees, but I’ve wanted to raft the Grand Canyon. My dear hubby has a trust problem and won’t let me, tho ????

    • Erin Taylor Young
      October 3, 2015 at 9:16 pm (9 years ago)

      It was a blast. I like that rafting idea too, though. Hey, maybe you can get dear hubby to agree to come with you–then he’d hafta let you. : )