Last week we had a church picnic with music, snow-cones, potato salad and water slides. The youth group assisted with the monstrous side of fun, which was two stories high. The teens helped little kids as they climbed up a bungeed stairway and then plunged about 20 feet to the pool below.
There was a little boy who ran up the stairs with his friends, clearly excited to be one of the gang and unfazed by the height.
Until he reached the top.
Peering around the corner he looked at the drop that awaited him and burst into tears. He hadn't thought this one through.
I felt for the kid. How often do we begin something only to realize halfway through that we had no idea what we were getting ourselves in to? The volunteer gig that turned into an overwhelming responsibility. The friendship that demanded more of ourselves than we initially thought. The class that was supposed to be easy that kicked our bottoms.
Everyone can relate to the feeling of being in over our heads.
With too many children queued up on the ladder behind him, there was only one way to get off this slide, and that was down. I looked at the poor kid -- tears streaming down his cheeks -- and wanted to deflate the slide to get him out of the awful predicament he had found himself in. However, his mom and dad knew that this was a life lesson.
"Look at me sweetie. Don't look down, just look at me. You can do it, just slide on down." Eyes locked on his mom, the boy gritted his teeth, screamed one last time for good measure and slid down, splashing into her awaiting arms. He got a hug and then ran off to get a hot dog.
I stood at the foot of the slide next to the pool (which was the picnic's equivalent of the Sea World Splash Zone) and as my jeans grew drenched, I thought about what I had just witnessed.
There was no therapeutic insight, no bribes offered -- just a mother's love, coaxing her son through what I'm sure would be one of the many difficult moments of childhood. He didn't look at the slide. He looked at his mom.
Many know the legendary words of St. Paul when he wrote to the Philippians, stating "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). However, I know I often think of the "things" part -- of what it is that I'm trying to accomplish: the overwhelming tasks and the improbability of success. Wringing my hands, I'll repeat, that "I can do all things," but I completely forget the second half and rely on my own strength, knowledge and talents.
Just like the little guy on the top of the slide, I sometimes find myself paralyzed with fear and unable to take the next step, thinking only of how far away and unattainable the goal seems. Not to mention how unqualified I feel when it comes to accomplishing it.
Before St. Paul's confident assertion of being able to "do all things," he advises the Philippians, "Rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Jesus Christ" (Philippians 4:4-7).
When we find ourselves panicking at a seemingly impossible situation, we can be confident that the Lord is, in fact, near. We need to remember to look to him -- and not our fears -- first.
Follow columnist Alison Griswold at twitter.com/alisongriz. Read her blog at www.teamcatholic.blogspot.com.