A few years ago I went rappelling. Can I just be honest and say that I was pretty much terrified?! The first try was from the top of a climbing tower, only about 60 feet high, but the climb alone was freaking me out. If not for the fact that I was supervising a group of middle and high schoolers, I might have chickened out, but my pride was on the line. When it was my turn, the guide took me by the hands and said, “Okay, turn around and face me.” He turned me to face him with my back to the edge of the platform.
“Now walk backwards until you’re just standing on the edge with your toes.”
Was he SERIOUS?
Charlie had been doing this for years. A modern-day mountain man, he was a little grizzled and rough around the edges, but he was gentle with the kids and with me. He was in his late 50s, and somehow the fact that he was NOT twenty-something was incredibly comforting at that moment.
“Charlie, I’m a mom. I need to be alive after this for my kids, ok?”
Charlie laughed. “Just keep your eyes on me, ok? Trust me. Now step back.” He held my arms while I closed my eyes and then quickly opened them again because he said, “Keep looking at me!” I inched backwards until I could feel my heels dangling off the ledge. “Keep your eyes on me,” Charlie coaxed.
Fat chance I’m looking anywhere else!
“Now, just sit down.”
“Sit down? You mean…as in sitting?”
“That’s it, just squat down like you’re gonna sit in a chair. You’ll see. The ropes and harness’ve gotcha!” He had that wide-eyed smile of a father watching his kid learn to ride a bike.
“Ok, Charlie, if this thing doesn’t hold, I’m gonna haunt you in the after-life.”
Charlie grinned. “Just do it.” I leaned back and squatted down, as though easing into a La-z-boy…and…amazing! It really did feel like I was sitting in a chair. The harness and ropes were dead secure.
Instantly, I lost all fear. I looked up at Charlie in surprise, and he caught my expression.
“See? I told you. It’s got you. Now just push away from the wall and have fun flying down.” And that’s exactly what I did. It was exhilerating! It was over in just a few seconds, but I could’ve done that all day. When we graduated to scaling off a mountainside a couple days later, I felt like an old pro, “Pfffff, I got this!” All because I knew that the ropes and the harness and the guys on belay had me secure.
That’s what trusting God is like. It’s so scary to go out on a ledge, until you step off the edge and sit into your fear. Only then can you know the safe and strong arms that have “got you.” I love that scene in Indiana Jones where Jones, in order to solve a riddle, realizes he must take a “leap of faith” off a monumentally scary cliff side. He sees no alternative but to stick his foot off the edge and walk. When he takes that step, he is amazed to discover solid ground beneath him. The bridge was there all the time, but it was disguised in such a way that he couldn’t see it until he was actually on top of it. What a great image of trust.
Trust is a mysterious and powerful thing when we stake our lives on something–or Someone–worthy of our faith. My rappelling experience was only as secure as the equipment and the experience of those on belay, both of which proved to be reliable. There are trustworthy arms ready to catch and hold us. But we will never know them until we step off the ledge.
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”