Most young men are used to making certain choices: what will I wear? What do I want to eat? Do I want to do my homework tonight…. Or tomorrow.
Sure, they may not always be the right choices…. But they are choices.
Something they have less experience in: Choices in the face of fear.
Fear has a funny way of stopping us in our tracks during a decision.
As an adult, when you are deciding between two jobs and one is in a new city and would mean upending your life, or when you’re about to go on a first date and you have to decide to walk out the door. When you are leaving home for the first time to go to college, or when you are deciding if it’s time to have a baby. Fear creeps in.
In all of these instances, prior experience making decisions in fear is crucial.
Working at a camp in NC, we see a lot of boys making decisions when fear is in play: at the top of the zipline, when he has to be the one to step off; halfway up the climbing wall, when he has to decide if he’s going to keep climbing; at the social with another camp, when he has to decide if he wants to ask someone to dance; during devotions, when he wants to share what he’s feeling and he needs to decide to be vulnerable and speak up.
Those small moments of fear and choice create long lasting patterns that help prepare us to navigate choices in fear throughout our entire lives.
Something that often gets in the way of that choice for children… us.
Every parent feels the same need to either rescue their children from fear, or push them through it.
But here’s the problem, that takes away the choice.
During Rockmont’s family retreats while at the top of the kayak ramp, Harrison felt the fear. He also felt the desire for the wildness and adventure of taking a kayak down the slide, off the drop, and into the lake! You could tell he was stuck between the want and the fear.
His dad was nearby as Harrison was starting to freeze up, and his dad did something amazing in that moment. He didn’t say, “just go,” or (one of my least favorite phrases) “man up!” He said gently, “you can do this if you want. And I’m right here either way.”
It was up to Harrison. And here’s the best part: he couldn’t make a wrong choice.
Choose to go? Conquer fear and have an exhilarating slide. Choosing to move through fear and into the moment is a big deal, and Harrison’s dad was ready to bless that moment if it happened.
Choose to step down? Realize that it’s not your moment yet, walk down the steps, and feel that feeling of relief. Maybe he comes back the next day, maybe he doesn’t. Harrison’s dad was ready to bless that moment too.
Sometimes a nudge is needed, but the choice is what sets them up for the future. If we push them off the slide, then it’s just a slide. But if they choose…
We put Harrison’s kayak in place, his dad says “I’m ready for you,” and the lifeguard is ready down in the water. Harrison asks us to count down.