My first experience away from home, on a camp, was when I was 10 years old. It was a horse riding camp known as Teen Ranch. Even though I wasn’t a teenager, like the name of the camp site suggests you should be, I thought I was ready to ride a horse. After all, I am a fan of bush poetry and had watched ‘The Man from Snowy River’ several times.
It wasn’t until I stood next to, what in my mind must have been the biggest horse in the world, that I started to question my riding ability. In reality it was probably the slowest and smallest horse at the camp, but for the 10-year-old version of me, this was a wild stallion and I had the enormous challenge of taming it.
When I finally mounted ‘the stallion,’ my arms turned to jelly, I couldn’t feel my legs, and it wasn’t Banjo Paterson in my head telling me that, “There was movement at the station,” but rather my own fears saying, “Get me off this thing!”
I survived the ride, most likely because my horse just followed the pack, but I was adamant I would never ride a horse again. For years I avoided riding, even making up excuses like I had an upset stomach rather than going for a romantic horse ride on the beach in Fiji with my wife.
But then I decided to give it another shot. I took my nieces, nephew and wife to a horse riding farm. Not wanting to embarrass myself in front of the kids, I decided I would walk next to the horse instead of sitting on it. I thought that was a good compromise until I felt the horse’s full weight baring down on my foot! It seemed like my luck with horses wasn’t getting any better and horse riding remains a challenge that I am yet to master.
Last week was camp week at Cedars. A couple of hundred students were out and about at different camp sites all over the region. Some hiking through the bush, some abseiling, others visiting organisations in Sydney that assist the homeless. Wherever they were, one thing I know for sure is that each student encountered something that was a challenge for them.
Challenges are things that are difficult for us. They take us out of our comfort zone and require us to face a difficulty head on. For our campers those could have been physical challenges such as completing a difficult hike carrying all of your gear, emotional challenges such as hearing from a holocaust survivor at the Jewish Museum, or spiritual challenges such as reflecting on the way that we relate to God or how He asks us to treat others.
When we overcome a challenge we feel amazing. We feel like we have grown somehow. It is through challenges that we learn new things. But if you felt like I did on that horse, and last week didn’t turn out the way you had hoped, don’t become disheartened. The fact that you tried something new is a success in itself. If we never take on a challenge or try something new, then we never learn and never grow.
So congratulations to everyone who took on a new challenge last week. I hope you found success. But if you didn’t feel successful, just remember to ‘get back on that horse.’ Don’t leave it too long like I did. At least in having a go I still learned something. I learned that I can add riding horses to the list of things that aren’t for me, just like skydiving, rock climbing and brussel sprouts.