We stood on top of Hog’s Back, an intermediate ski run at Stevens Pass, looking down at the mogul strewn and rather steep hill. The night air was cold and crisp against my cheeks, thick with the spicy fragrance of pine and fir trees and fresh snow. I sucked in the rich night air, holding it deep within my lungs for a moment or two, enjoying the sensation, then released it back to the mountain. The ski slope was painted with lights and shadows cast from the powerful lights sitting high atop thick sturdy metal poles. Skiers and boarders were swishing back and forth across the mountain, rhythmically moving to the sounds of nature.
I looked down at Sam, my eight year old, standing next to me, also deep in thought about our surroundings. We watch as Jackson, his younger brother, and Dad headed fearlessly down the hill swishing back and forth. I looked at the shiny helmet on top of Sam’s eight year brain and I know what he’s thinking. “What if I’ve forgotten how to ski down big hills? What if I break my arm or leg? What if I fall? What if I fall and cry? What if I fall, break a leg and arm, and die? Is this really a safe and smart thing for me to do?” Yep, that’s what was going on in that head, I knew it, but needed to ask anyway. “Sam, are you ready to head down the hill?” I ask with a big confident smile on my face. “NO, I want to go back to Daisy chair … I’m not comfortable with this hill, it’s too steep … I want to go down another way” was his answer in a voice that started calm but grew in agitation as he spoke.
This was our first ski run of the season and we were ready to conquer the hill. Well, almost ready. We had skied the beginner’s chair several times to regain our rhythm and balance after the long break between ski seasons. Sam was eager but cautious about reintroducing his body to the sensation of gliding over the snow on two highly waxed boards. He’d been skiing since he was five and was quite a competent skier. However, at the beginning of each season it took him a while to once again believe in the skill that he already possessed. So, I reminded him about how he had skied this very slope many times last year and did well, he’d even raced Jackson down it once. I reminded him that he already possessed the ability and skill; he just needed to trust his knowledge and body.
There he stood, a pint sized Michelin Tire Man in his grey down coat and thick ski pants determined to be immovable. I knew he wanted to be like his older brother Ryan who talked about ski jumps and racing down the slopes with friends; or to be like Jackson who pointed his board downhill seemingly never contemplating the “what ifs” and when he fell, just laughed and got up. But Sam’s mind didn’t work that way, it dwelled in the “what ifs” constantly asking question that were too deep and probing for a child.
So, we stood at the top of Hog’s Back, surrounded by the beauty of nature and fast moving skiers, discussing the importance of not letting fear stop you from doing what you know you can. Sam knew he had the skill to ski down the hill; it was fear stopping him, not ability. We talked about how fear can hinder someone from growing in character and skill, if they let it. Finally Sam took off down the hill, slowly, cautiously, but he was moving. Frequently he would stop, give me a squinty eyed look of disapproval and say something like “this is going to kill me” or “why are you making me do this”? But, with slow progress we made it down the slope where he promptly asked for a cup of hot chocolate. After a little rest we went back to Hog’s Back and Sam skied the same slope with more confidence, believing in the skill that he already possessed.
Many times over the years Sam and I have talked about how fear and insecurity can immobilize us from doing what we should or want to do. We have talked about fear in relation to learning math and writing; in regard to school, friends, football, skiing and faith in God. Fear is an issue that has resurfaced over and over again and each time Sam and I try to talk and pray through it.
Like Sam, I’ve had a life long struggle with fear and insecurity, so I’m able to understand how real and immobilizing fear can be. Recently, the table was turned and Sam was the one giving me the “don’t let fear stop you, pep talk.” A little while ago my husband and I decided it was time for me to reenter the workforce after many years of staying at home. I spent a few months perusing Craigslist and other job boards, filling out application and writing cover letters. Finally, I landed a job and felt so relieved at having the whole job hunting process over. However, as I started the new job I realized how rusty my skills were and that I had a lot of catching up to do to be competitive.
I came home from work one afternoon a few weeks after I started my new job exhausted and rather than going into the house I sat on the front porch and let the warm afternoon sun sooth my up-tight muscles. Adjusting to working full time was challenging, but it was the feeling of inadequacy about my skills and ability to perform my job that really had me down. While I sat there Sam came out of the house and asked how I was doing. My answer was surprisingly honest, I said “I just don’t know, I’m a little overwhelmed right now, maybe it’s not the right job, maybe I should quite.” Well, someone could have cued the music because Sam gave me my speech about not allowing fear to keep us from our goals; how fear can make us doubt the talents we have and even prevent us from using them. I smiled at my son and said “thanks, I needed that.”
Fear and its partner insecurity can immobilize us. They can keep us from using and refining our talents. They can hold us back from success. They can prevent us from spiritual and emotional growth. They can keep us from healthy relationships and keep us in unhealthy ones. Fear and insecurity can keep us from stepping out in faith. But with God’s help we can stand strong and face our fears and insecurities. Below are two of my favorite verses that help me move forward when fear and insecurity threaten to stop my progress in any area.
Isaiah 41:13 For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you.
Psalm 27: 1 The Lord is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life of whom shall I be afraid?
Debora Shelford Hobbs