In high school I went on a yearly ski trip with my youth group. We didn’t go to real mountains, just small skiing facilities in central Michigan or Wisconsin. Most of the places were exactly what you can imagine for Midwest ski destinations: a barely-there bunny hill, a half-dozen medium slopes, and a single black diamond drop-off.
This particular year, the easy hills were beyond boring — and after less than an hour I was boarding the lift for the black diamond. The ride wasn’t long, and once at the top, I skied around the small shack to the edge of the slope.
As I slowly trundled over to the edge, shock stopped me cold. It was almost a straight-down drop-off of glistening packed snow. Think cliff. I stood, considering.
I was alone.
No one would know if I turned around and begged my way back onto the lift for a ride back down to the lodge. Not wanting to break a leg or bust my skull was nothing to be ashamed of. My heart beat faster, and inside my wet gloves, my palms sweat bullets. I wasn’t a bad skier, but one ski trip a year doesn’t make you a professional.
It would be wise to skip it. I nodded in submission to my fear, and began to back up.
Then, struck with the reality of what I was admitting, I stopped.
I didn’t want to go down that hill because I was afraid. I was afraid of breaking a bone or careering out of control or tumbling head over heels into the forest. But none of that was necessarily going to happen in real life, just in my imagination.
Standing there, dwelling in my fear, I suddenly knew I couldn’t turn around and ride the lift down. The thought is still vivid in my mind today.
That would be giving in to my fear. But if I do this thing that I’m afraid of, I’ll know I can do other things that I’m afraid of.
Reluctant to give myself any more time to think, I asked Jesus to keep me safe and slipped my ski-tips over the edge of the precipice.
Smart skiers cut from side to side when they’re going down a fast, steep slope. I did not. Skis pointed forward, I plummeted straight down the hillside. The wind pressed against me as I gained speed and watched the tiny lodge far below grow larger every second.
And in the middle of my wild, speeding ride to the bottom of the hill, I had a very clear thought:
This is not that bad.
I made it to the bottom without falling, crashing into the woods, or running into any other skiers. And when I got there, I rode the lift up and did it again. And again. And again.
Conquering your fear is like that, most of the time. Often, it turns out that the thing you’re scared of isn’t that bad, and once you’ve done it once, you can do it a thousand times.
Have courage today. You can do it.