A group of our residents recently visited Dalby Forest and tried out the ‘Go Ape’ Treetop adventure. If you’ve never had the pleasure, allow me to enlighten you: (sufferers of vertigo might want to skip to the next paragraph at this point!) the treetop adventure is a high ropes activity course, traversing “intricate crossings, wobbly bridges and a zip wire finale.” The course takes place in the upper branches of the Forestry Commission’s Dalby Forest, and after a safety briefing from trained instructors and a check that you know how to use the ropes correctly, you’re off. Once you’ve got up, there’s only one way down and that’s to complete the course! The zip wire back to terra firma, whilst exhilarating, is very much a leap of faith: you have to step off a wooden platform into thin air, trusting that the ropes securing you to the wire are strong enough to hold you, and that you’re not going to fall.
Whilst some of the residents (and staff!) who went on the trip were thrill seekers who relished the opportunity to test their balance and core muscle control at high altitude, others were of a more cautious disposition. I would certainly be amongst the latter group: even though the logical side of your brain knows that you’ve been fastened into your safety harness by a trained professional, that the course must be subject to rigorous regular safety checks in order to be permitted to offer the high ropes experience to the general public, and that – as long as you follow the instructions you’ve been given – the chances of incurring a serious injury are remote, there’s still a small voice inside your head that insists on reminding you that you’re over 16 metres in the air and – should you fall – it’s an awfully long way down!
For some of the residents who found this experience a stretch outside of their comfort zone, it was the gentle encouragement of their companions that helped them finish. Whether that was in the form of a friend behind them saying ‘come on you can do it,’ or someone further ahead saying ‘I’ve just done it; copy me and you’ll be fine,’ it was the mutual support and motivation that helped them complete the course. The level of pride each person felt upon doing so, especially for those who’d really had to dig deep and conquer their fear to get to the end, was heart-warming to witness.
The trip to Go Ape is a perfect metaphor for life as a Restore resident more generally: the journey most of our residents embark upon, from moving into Restore’s supported accommodation, to being handed the keys to a flat of their own, is one that oftentimes pushes somebody out of their comfort zone. Indeed, it’s the ‘leap of faith’ that’s required that often leads to people not progressing as quickly as we might have hoped they would: just as some people might freeze on the high ropes course and feel unable to move forwards; so in life’s challenging circumstances, someone may choose not to take the next step of their journey. Just like on the treetop challenge, it often feels safer to stay put, even if that means they are stuck in a difficult place. In such circumstances, it is the role of Restore to be like the friend behind the cautious person on the high-ropes course; to say ‘come on you can do it,’ or even ‘let’s do it together if that makes it easier to face.’ Our housing support workers are skilled at knowing when someone needs that friendly word of encouragement or gentle prompting to move forwards.
Moreover, it is encouraging to witness residents helping one another on their respective journeys too. This often takes the form of the person further ahead on the high-ropes course, offering support from the voice of experience: ‘I’ve been there, so I can show or tell you what to do, and I will help you.’ Time and again we witness former residents offering encouragement and advice to those who are not as far along in their journey of restoration. That they willingly walk alongside one another and help each other to heal is truly inspiring.
There’s a spiritual dimension to this imagery as well, of course. In the letter to the Hebrews, the Bible describes faith as “being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it.” Just as at the end of the high ropes course, the climber has to step off the platform into the open air and trust that the zip wire will hold their weight and carry them safely to ground level, so the believer makes a commitment to trust God to hold their life in His hands, accepting on faith that there is no better place for them than in the hands of loving, compassionate and almighty Father. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that, without faith in Jesus and what He has done to save us, we may as well be stepping off the platform without the safety rope! Without Jesus, we are free-falling. He is the ONLY one who can bring us safely through the high-ropes of life.
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 Description from https://goape.co.uk/locations/dalby/tree-top-adventure
 Hebrews 11:1 New Century Version (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Hebrews%2011:1-2&version=NCV)