We were out collecting acorns to make acorn coffee, which is a whole other story, and the girls were running like little squirrels to fill their baskets. Before too long, Aneliese dropped her basket at the base of the oak tree and began scurrying up the branches. Higher and higher she goes, pulling herself up on this branch, testing her weight on that branch.
When she has reached a spot that she is comfortable with, she begins to search for acorns that she drops down for Cecily to pick up. When the acorns prove too far out of her reach, she begins to shake the branch above as well as the one she is standing on. This effectively shakes loose the few acorns that are still clinging tenaciously to the branch.
She laughs and calls down to us as she enjoys her view. I laugh with her and feel a story, a life application, stir within my soul.
I encourage the girls to climb trees, I love it when they swing themselves up. Rarely do I tell them no higher. Aneliese has already fallen a time or two. I know that there is a risk to their tree climbing ways. But they are learning how to climb, how to catch themselves, how to test the branch before they put their weight on it.
We have a guideline in our house that if you could climb up that high, you can climb down. That’s not set in stone though because everyone needs a little help from time to time. And sure enough there are times when they climb much higher than they are prepared to climb down. Always I respond to their fear by acknowledging that it is real; it’s true that they could fall, true that the branch might break. Sometimes, we support them from the bottom of the tree, “Hold onto that branch. Now set your foot on the lower branch and grab branch right next to you”.
We don’t lift them down but we offer supporting hands to catch them if they should fall. We reassure with our voices that we can see where they need to step or grab. We remind them that they can do it.
It’s just climbing a tree but it’s just preparing for life. It’s learning to be brave and take the climb. It’s learning to ask for help. It’s learning to fall and get back up. It’s learning to trust in the face of fear.
I know from experience what a demanding, unfaithful companion Fear is. I know what it means to be so tangled in its grip that it sucks every bit of joy out of life. I know what it means to be held back from the life I’m meant to live because I’m so afraid.
I also know what it means to learn to trust, to be led by One who is True and who is Good. I know what it means to say “That is real, that it bad, that is horrid and I am afraid, but that does not hold me, it does not define me.” I know what it means to take one brave shaky step to freedom and that one brave shaky step, when bathed in Light, is followed by one more and then one more and then one more.
I like to think that when I stand at the bottom of the tree or offer a supporting hand, I’m doing so much more than teaching my girls how to climb trees, though that is a important skill, I’m teaching them how to live life.