As I recently sat at the edge of the rock precipice, jutting out over the steep drop off 100 feet down, I remembered this warning that I had first heard nearly 30 years ago: “The first step is always the hardest.” The local climbing guide overseeing our tourist zip lining experience issued it several times as the nervous adults lined up to take their turns repelling off the Mexican cliff.
“The first step is always the hardest.”
I was ten years old and I was away at overnight camp three states away from home. I chose to go bouldering at a local climbing area just off property with a group of campers and counselors — skilled outdoors-people. Being a mall rat from the urban jungle of Dallas, Texas, I was anything but “outdoorsy.” However, I was usually up for a challenge and repelling off the wall fit the bill. I clearly remember the feeling in my body as I cautiously backed up to the edge of the cliff, nothing but my carabiner and a belayer down below keeping me safe. Despite the rush of adrenaline surging up through my core, I couldn’t make myself step off the edge. I tried to push my foot a bit farther out, like the instructor had coached me to do, but I simply couldn’t trust that the rope was going to support me.
With the ground a good 50+ feet below, I closed my eyes and allowed myself to sit down into my harness so that the weight shifted out of my feet and into the seat of the girdle tied around my waist. It worked. With hardly any weight left in my toes, I allowed them to dangle off the edge until my feet had completely cleared the side of the wall. I was airborne but I was not falling! As quickly as I took that first step, the feeling in my stomach changed from total fear and anxiety to freedom and elation.
With small bounces off the wall, my feet propelled me slowly toward the ground with each progressive push and release. It only took a matter of minutes, but the confidence I gained during my descent would last the rest of my life.
Nowadays, courage looks different. Most days are not filled with dare-devil stunts and jumping off cliffs, but in many ways, life’s work requires faith similar to what I remember feeling growing up from inside my gut at the edge of that wall.
When I reached out to Terra Mattson, clinician and founder of Courageous Girls, to see if she wanted to create curriculum that could be used by moms anywhere to start Courageous Girls groups of their own, it took courage. Courage to boldly ask her if I could help, and courage in her response to a complete stranger. Our share desire was to give other moms the opportunity to experience the joy and connection that we feel each month as we gather with our daughters and several other friends to talk about relevant topics that our kids experience daily.
Like that first step off the rock ledge, gathering together in these small groups requires great courage. We have recently had moms share with us that they sometimes feel “vulnerability hangovers” after a monthly discussion. It’s hard! We are not accustomed to doing life skin-on-skin with others, our scars, open wounds and fears in plain view. In many ways, it’s like the first feeling I had when I realized I was dangling 50 feet above ground with very little to protect me. It’s hard and awkward, like a climbing harness, and sometimes oh-so-uncomfortable.
But it’s also real. And it’s working. Our girls are talking, sharing in more vibrant detail than they did before. They are leaning into others with a kind of trust and faith that took many of us moms decades to develop. We are all leaning into God’s word and direction more. We look to Him to declare our worth and to define our purpose. He does. He is a faithful and redemptive God who uses our hurts and our hiccups to lead others and to see beauty on the horizon more clearly.
And yes, the first step can often times still be the hardest. One must put herself out there to extend an invitation and commit to shepherding a group for the long haul. But just like repelling off the cliff 30 years ago, the feeling of being “caught” by God’s grace is unlike any other feeling. The lightness of legs without gravity holding me in one spot allows for immense growth and positive change, for my own life, and for my relationship with my daughter and others. What started with fear, grows into long-term trust, fueled by grace and courage, so that doubts and insecurities are not so paralyzing anymore, and eventually you realize, anyone can do it.
Written by Aimee Eckley, co-curriculum developer; editor