I am terrified of heights. I never used to be and then once in the Cathedral at Florence someone pushed me against the railings at the base of the dome and in that moment I imagined myself falling to the floor below.
Since then, when climbing mountains or visiting cliffs I stand a yard or two back and make suitable noises of appreciation before quickly seeking greater security!
I also hate being frightened of something. My middle brother was bitten a few times by dogs. Being one to learn from other’s experiences I was frightened of dogs.
No matter what size, what nature, or what assurance by their owners, a barking dog would get me crossing the street, just in case a gate was open. A job as a postman didn’t help with this fear.
Then when we lived in South Africa and so many homes had dogs (and large and seemingly vicious ones at that) I knew I needed to do something. We got a dog. I learned to face my fears and when we came back to the UK, we got another one and while he died a few years ago, I now seek out dogs to pet and enjoy.
On a similar basis, as one scared of heights I have agreed to do a charity tandem parachute jump. The theory is that I need to confront my phobia and what better way than in a situation that gives me no choice.
It has led to many fascinating conversations from my one bishop who will sponsor me not to do it. To others who have offered large sums if I do it without a parachute! Often the people who are most enthusiastic are the ones when I ask if they have done it say, ‘Not on your life, but a friend has’.
It is quite literally a leap of faith. You cannot do a half leap of faith. You cannot almost face your fears. You either do or you do not. Most graphically in the Bible is Lot’s wife who turns round to see her home city destroyed and is turned into a pillar of salt herself.
For me to jump of the aeroplane involves not just facing my darkest thoughts, I also need to have faith. Faith in the testimony of those who have done it before, and complete confidence in the expertise of the person I will be strapped to and the quality of the equipment we will use.
We can either be constrained by our fears or face them and with the support of others grow and become someone freed.
I prefer to live by faith rather than by fear and look to the forward than be constrained by the past.
Although I have to admit the thought of a stunt double is tempting!