Buoys: Using Fear As a Map

I am afraid of heights and went rappelling into a 300 foot cave last year with my good buddy Trey. I have never been so scared in my life, like 8/9 out of 10 level bordering uncontrollable fear dangling 200 feet above the ground in a cave ascending up and out of that thing. Going down was fine. It was a dangling rope in the middle of this cavern not touching the sides of the cave. I rapelled down in fear as fast as I could. I flew down that thing in fear. We spend a couple hours exploring the cave, and then went back to the cavern. I am going to try to attach some pictures in the show notes to give you a visual of this.

I had been rappelling which is scary but manageable to me. I had been caving which was fun and brings out the little boy in me. But the climb out was a different story. Two things that are top of my list of fears are snakes and heights. And standing 300 feet below the surface in a cave in the middle of nowhere Alabama, I realized that there is literally no option other than ascending out of this cave in order to live. We were hours deep in the woods and so either Trey would have to spend 10 hours bringing back ½ dozen people to pull me out, or I was going to ascent out 10 inches at a time, painstakingly dealing with one of my deepest fears of heights.

Actual photo of Robby

When I was 20 feet above the ground, already feeling tired, the ascender got stuck for a minute. The freakout began. I realized I had no idea and didn’t even know if it was possible at that point to go back down. I realized I had no idea how to problem solve if any of the gear got stuck. I wasn’t a boy scout and don’t know how to re-tie a knot. Trey told me ascending was easy and I was in shape. At this moment I realized he was a liar. He was a crossfit Ironman guy, and I just turned 40 and peaked in 11th grade. Worse than that, Trey didn’t walk through the plan B, C, and D options for me. And I had 300 feet to go of potential problems and death.

So with all my counseling abilities, I went into the zone. I looked down twice and up once in 25 minutes. The rest of the time I staired at the rope in front of my face and said, 10 more inches. Breath. Ten more inches. Breath. I went as fast as I could and didn’t say a word. When I thought about the rope above rubbing against the rock ready to break at any minute, I focused back on my 10 inch ascend. After about 25 minutes of intensity and fear I finally touched something stable, scampered 20 feet away from that terrible hole, and laid prostrate on the ground.

Disappointingly, I don’t think I prayed during that 25 minutes. I was overcome with emotion. And then Trey came up after 30 minutes. He was smiling and chilling. He was calm and happy. He was hanging out at the edge looking down and around and enjoying the beauty of what he just did. In my anxiety I said, “dude get up here!” He was stressing me out. I could not get my head around his ability to chill at the edge pushing against the rock so he could get a better view down into the cavern.

Now, I have thought about this and processed it a bit since it was the most afraid I have ever been. Here is the deal. Here is what I learned.

I didn’t trust the rope. And I didn’t trust myself or my climbing experience. And I didn’t trust God.

I therefore couldn’t enjoy the beauty of the cave or the experience. Fear was the byproduct of my lack of trust. Because of my lack of trust, I couldn’t experience the beauty, joy, or contentment, or peace, or freedom that Trey seemed to experience.

This principle of regarding the connection of fear and trust is significant and provides us with a cheat code to life that all of us can practice and incorporate into our faith journeys.

Lets do an exercise if you are listening to this or watching this for you to experience what I am talking about. Take a minute and reflect with me. Think about something that is heavy on your heart, something you are worried or anxious about. Are some worries rising to the surface in your mind? These worries are something I like to call “buoys.” A buoy is something that I look for in my life that pops up above the surface which indicates something below the surface—just like crab traps have buoys in water, letting boats know there is something under the surface.

Fear, anxiety, worry, are buoys or indicators of where we aren’t experiencing love. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.”

It is trust that moves us from fear to love.

Fear and anxiety provide a buoy to show us an area of our hearts, or a need, that God is waiting to meet.

Galatians 5 says, “For freedom he has come to set us free.”

John 10:10 says, “He has come that we experience full life.”

An easy indicator to identify areas where we aren’t experiencing freedom is to notice where fear or anxiety shows up. Often these buoys show me areas where I am seeking control. Areas where I am trying to meet my needs, and missing out on allowing the father to meet these needs. Next time you feel anxiety remember this buoy and pray to release fear and control. Remember that God wants to take this burden from you.

Psalm 139 says, “Search me and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts, see if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.”

During the sermon on the mount in Matthew 6, Jesus says, “Do not worry about your life. “Don’t worry about tomorrow. Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Scripture doesn’t leave any room for fear, anxiety, and worry and that’s because they are the opposite of love, of trusting God.

When we feel that our needs aren’t being met, this is when fear, anxiety, worry, discomfort creep in. What if when we feel those things, we can let them point us to an opportunity to trust God more deeply. To let him meet those needs.

So, let’s trust God to meet our needs—not the world. Trust unlocks love.

A couple weeks ago I was speaking a few services on a Sunday morning at a big church. Anxiety started creeping up slowly then strongly. I had been thinking about this principle, so I thought, OK, this anxiety is just a buoy. It’s just showing me an area that I am close fisted with, fighting for control, and missing out on peace and freedom and love. So, I saw this anxiety as a gift, as a reminder, to go to God. It reminded me to just go to God and say, OK God, I have this anxiety. I am anxious because I think I am going to embarrass myself and the ministry by not doing a good job and messing up. I got to confess my fears and lack of belief. And in turn, I felt the beautiful response of how he saw me and loves me regardless and independent of whether I killed it speaking or completely bombed it. His smile and love wouldn't change a bit. I trusted him with my reputation, and let him affirm me, remind me of how he thought of me, and experience his love, which is my foremost desire.

As I mature, I want to be quicker to identify the buoys of fear and anxiety as opportunities to let down the walls, break down the dam, and receive more of his love through trusting him. Let’s let him love us, let him meet our needs. I want to have time for us to do that together today. To practice trust. I want to give a few minutes for us to just bring our fears, worries, anxieties before him. Trust is not passive, it takes practice. So let’s practice. Don’t worry if you don’t feel anything, you are practicing trust. You are bringing something to him, not to show him but to leave it with him. And you probably will need to do the same thing tomorrow. And the next day. It was probably the 6th prayer time that I had about my anxieties at speaking at the big church before I received the gift of what he showed me in the prayer time. I kept going back to him and the way the spirit knows, he knew when to replace my fears and lies with his truth.

This, my friends, this secret of learning to trust God, is central in our journey of maturing, of discipleship.

So here are some questions to reflect on as you go out today seeking new ways to trust God in your life:

My prayer for all of you is that we would seek God and find deeper trust and love with others and him this week. Have a great day, friends and go in peace, as you are part of the kingdom of God.


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