Fear has never controlled me.
In fact, facing and conquering it has always been quite the driving force in my life.
Over the course of the last 30 years, this infatuation with fear and its ensuing adrenaline has taken many forms: diving into pools before I could swim, jumping off buildings without any kind of wings, and [ashamedly] abusing illegal substances without even the slightest concern. My Mama always says that this trait has been one of the biggest causes of grief in her life. Funny, as it’s been more a source of joy and growth in my own, but I didn’t have to raise me.
By 21 I already had two kids; 23, I felt like an old lady. I’d settled down too much, so I took up running. I found the risky 100 mile distance filled my adrenaline void. Of course my dear mother about had a heart attack over that. And when I started running deep in the mountains alone on the weekends for training, the poor woman just had to shut her eyes and guard her soul, “I just have to trust that God will take care of you.”
She was right. She had no other option. She was learning what I subconsciously knew early on.
God’s got me.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” John 1:9
While I certainly do not condone recklessness and harmful behavior, I do feel that God gave some of us an insatiable desire for risk taking and adventure. I also fully believe that He and He alone can dictate when one will live and one will die. He also clearly stated that He will be with me wherever I go. I don’t take those words of Truth lightly. All these thoughts combined have given me complete freedom to pursue quite the wild life.
I’m not scared of when, where, or how I will die. I know where I’m going. When it happens, I’ll be ready.
I’ll never forget one particular run I did a few summers ago where this really hit home.
I’d started a solo run early in the morning before sunup on my favorite mountain in the Smokies, Thunderhead. It was pitch black. I had zero cell service. Nobody else was around. Just me and the trees and whatever other creatures were out and about. It was smack in the middle of bear season, and if the sights and smells on the trail were any indication, it was indeed bear country.
I climbed as the sun rose. Up roughly 3600 feet in the first 7 miles, and I hadn’t seen a soul the entire time.
Once I finally reached the top, I dropped down on a rock to give my legs a break. I looked left and right. Still no one! I sat on the summit of Thunderhead, and lost myself in the incredible views.
Everyone needs to experience what I’m feeling right now.
I thought to myself, staring down at the sea of blues and greens below from the top of my favorite peak in the Smoky Mountains.
I sat and enjoyed the lonely views for about 30 minutes. I took the last swig from my water bottle, and reached around into my pack to grab a refill. I looked down to place my handheld on the ground.
There, directly under my feet, wedged between my calves and the rock I was sitting on, was a massive [and I mean MASSIVE!] rattlesnake… Just soaking up the sun in all its glory!
My heart jumped straight into my throat.
I didn’t move. I just stayed still.
He looked like he’d just swallowed a rabbit, thank God, which is maybe why he wasn’t too interested in me. Regardless, I knew I had to put space between us.
God, please. Don’t leave me! I begged silently.
I slowly lifted my feet, and carefully jumped backwards away from the rock.
I backed up several feet, but still kept my eye on the rattler. After a few minutes, he slithered a bit, so I knew he was alive, but he didn’t move much at all.
We both just stood still for a few moments until he finally crawled away in the other direction, and I felt I could breathe again.
Man, he could have easily killed me! Knowing that I was a good hour from any help, I’d left my bite kit at home, I had no cell service, and that I hadn’t seen any other humans that day, I would have been dead pretty quick had the snake not been quite so amicable.
I’d sat in the same spot for half an hour, and hadn’t even noticed him. Who knows how long he’d been there beneath me!
After the whole ordeal, I looked up and laughed out loud, “You’ve definitely got my back, God.”
I noticed some storm clouds in the distance. So, I gathered my gear off the mountain top, said goodbye to Fat Daddy Rattler, wherever he was, and hustled back down the mountain to reach my car at the trail head before the rain came down…Exuberant every single step of the way. When I was finally safe inside my car, I just dropped my head back on the seat and laughed out loud, as I watched the rain start pounding the windows.
God must have sent quite a few angels to tag along with me on this one. I giggled in my head, thinking how I must keep them on their toes. This was just one of many very near death experiences I’ve had.
Life is so good!
I could have died that day, but at 27 years old, I would have already lived an abundantly full life. It was an overwhelming, albeit fulfilling realization.
I know it is not safe to go running in the mountains alone. It isn’t smart. I get that. Because, things like this do not ensure survival.
But why only pursue survival?
Where is the actual LIFE in life if you try to control it, harness it, and choke all of the unknown and unpredictability out of it?
Did not God intend for us to live fully?
Sure there are bears, and snakes, and cougars out there. Maybe even some psycho ax murderers. But none of that should stop you from climbing the tallest peaks, swimming in cold waterfalls, and sleeping under the brightest stars. Maybe even running for 100 miles.
When it’s your time to go, you’ll go. But until then….
You should live.