There they stood in a circle, early in the morning, groggy and half committed to the events of the day. The group of individuals standing before me, some adventurous, some not so much, were there because the leader of their group thought they would benefit from a teambuilding session. Like so many other groups, this gathering appeared less than enthusiastic.
I begin to lighten the atmosphere by giving the group permission. I give each participant permission to say “No” if they feel physically or emotionally unable to attempt a challenge. I give them permission to feel emotions such as fear, frustration, and even anger. I also give them permission to use their voice, and finally, I give them permission to fail.
My goal is to defuse all expectations of being forced, denied a choice or being expected to perform perfectly. I want each and every member of the team to know they are free to be real, void of judgement and ridicule. As this resonates, the hesitancy and stubborn resolve evaporates immediately on their faces, and a spirit of comfort and cooperation begins to reside.
On the heels of granting permission, I also have to explain that my role as a facilitator is not limited to becoming their friend and making sure the group has a good time. My job is to challenge each and every participant to trust in the equipment, their teammates and me enough to step outside of their comfort zone, which also means not accepting their “No” as finality.
Bringing them to the point where they can give themselves permission to be stretched and embrace all the uncertainty and vulnerability which accompanies is important in order for real growth to take place. I reassure them if they will trust me, they will walk away at the end of the day feeling stronger, more empowered and excited about what is ahead of them.
After securing their permission to move forward with a show of two thumbs up, I begin to explain the challenges of the day. Once again, the facial expressions change, and I see skepticism and anxiety at the thought of climbing, balancing and jumping from uncomfortable heights. Fear is rearing its head once again, and we haven’t even gotten off the ground. I smile and tell them it is all “OK”, and it is, because I have been doing this long enough to know what is coming, and it is all good!
Our time on this earth is very much like this. We travel through our days, often taking comfort in watching our plans and dreams take shape, and life is good. Then, unexpectedly, we find ourselves facing a situation not a part of our plan; one we did not ask for. Life is predictable that way. Unfortunately, the outcome is not certain, and we doubt our ability to pass through and arrive on the other side without collateral damage. Endless questions plague our normally sound mind, and fear rears its head.
Why am I here?
Why is this happening to me?
What if I can’t do it?
Why isn’t God doing something?
Our raw humanity screams through the chaos, and we wonder, “How could God let this happen? I thought He was my friend!
And there God stands, fully aware of our thoughts and emotions. He has seen them before and He is not alarmed. His brow isn’t furrowed. His lips aren’t pursed. His eyes hold no condemnation.
There He stands, brow lifted with anticipation of what He knows we need, lips smiling softly and knowingly, and eyes consumed with a depth of love and compassion that penetrates all of the chaos.
There He stands, giving us permission.
-Permission to say “No,” I can’t do this
-Permission to feel fear, frustration, doubt and even anger
-Permission to use our voice
-Permission to be vulnerable
-Permission to be real
-Permission to fail
We see in his face no traces of judgment or ridicule, but a longing to be with us; to be our friend.
But it doesn’t end there; it’s not that easy. His role is not limited to being our friend. Accepting our “No” as final doesn’t fit within his plan for us. He wants so much more for us.
Tenderly and gently, He coaxes us to come closer, summoning us to trust, to step outside of our comfort zone because it is the only way we will grow. Our hesitancy is strong, but His smile assures us as we are invited to embrace all the uncertainty and vulnerability because we are not alone.
We are encouraged to trust Him, and if we will, He promises we will be stronger, more empowered and excited about what lies ahead. The hesitancy begins to evaporate from our face as we experience a level of comfort.
We wait for the challenge to be revealed, but an explanation and what to expect is not given to us. What? You’re kidding right? Doubt races back to the surface. He has given us permission to be real, so we ask, with a bit of attitude, “Seriously, I’m just supposed to trust you?”
There He stands, a huge smile spread across His face, arm extended, waving for us to follow.
“It’s OK,” He says with a laugh. “I have been doing this forever, long enough to know what is coming, and I promise, its all good!”
So, we do the only thing left to do; we raise our arms and give Him our two thumbs up.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11