Heights make me nervous.
I’m not a fearful person. I can handle most situations. I grit my teeth and gut my way through them. Except when it comes to heights—heights terrify me. I get over twelve feet high on a ladder and my legs shake so much that the ladder is ready to collapse. My stomach tightens and I start to sweat. My mind races through every worst-case scenario and I freeze. I desperately want to be down with my feet on solid ground as quickly as possible.
I trust God, but I really don’t like uncomfortable situations. A few months ago, however, some friends asked me to participate in an activity that would stretch my comfort zone. I immediately said yes, figuring this would be a fantastic opportunity to face my fears. But the closer I got to the date of the event, the more uncomfortable I became.
Why did I agree to such a stupid idea? I’ve got a very busy schedule, and I don’t really have the time to deal with this right now. In theory I believe that stretching oneself is a great idea. It’s just the practical, personal application that I struggle with.
I sat on the ground in Mount Hood National Forest and looked high into the air at a log that stretched thirty feet between two trees. The guide said, “I want each of you to climb this tree and walk across that log up there.” I stared at the log and then stared at the guide thinking, This guy is crazy. There is no way I’m doing this. Out on that log I’d have nothing to hold on to, nothing to help keep my balance. On top of that, it was at least a twenty-two-foot drop to the ground. I was sure I couldn’t do it, and I begged God to either get me out of it or calm my fears.
He didn’t get me out of it. As I slowly climbed the tree, I could feel my heart pounding.
God, help me.
I kept moving upward until I reached the horizontal log.
God, give me strength.
I cautiously shifted my weight onto the log, still holding tightly to the tree.
God, give me courage.
I stood on the log, but I refused to look down. I knew I had to let go of the tree, but I couldn’t. I clung to its trunk. It felt solid and safe. If I let go, I might fall.
God, give me faith.
I looked down and saw my buddy, who was holding on to a cable attached to my harness. If I fell, he would catch me.
Okay, God, I’m going to do this.
I loosened my grip, turned away from the security of the tree, and stepped out onto the log. With my eyes focused on the other tree thirty feet away and my arms stretched out for balance, I walked across the log. God calmed my fears and held my hand and helped me do something I thought was impossible. It may sound like a little thing, but for me it was pretty big.
This world is filled with danger and risk. There is always something scary just around the corner, waiting to jump out and grab us. Yet this exercise taught me that I don’t need to run or hide. I can actually lean into my fears. Look them in the eyes and smile. What are you afraid of?
• the unknown?
Fear is a part of life. When we run from our fears, we run from life. When we embrace them, we embrace life. This provides us with a new way of looking at the world and all it contains. To risk nothing is to refuse to learn and grow and to miss out on the best of love and life. To live is to risk. Any journey that leads to a place of value will have its risks. I want to leap into the adventure with a courage that outshines my fears.
The spiritual life is a journey beyond what is familiar and safe into the mysterious and sometimes scary world of the Spirit. It requires a willingness to say good-bye to the ordinary and sail beyond life as we know it toward a deeper, grander reality. This is the strange land of faith, where unspeakable beauty and unpredictable danger mingle in the miraculous.
I really want to experience authentic faith, but doing so means I must let go of my preconceived notions and expectations. I must launch into the deep, with my back to the shore, and trust that God will use this journey to bring me closer to him. Don’t get me wrong. What’s on the shore is sometimes very good. But everything there—all I have learned and seen and believed—is only the beginning of the journey. This amazing, exciting, terrifying quest promises to stretch me to the very edge of who I am and what I know. My past has prepared me for this point in time. Now I must move beyond fear and rest in his promises to never let me down.
Are you ready to join me? Fear will offer you hundreds of logical and practical reasons not to take this journey. Why leave the safety and security of what you know for who-knows-what?
But what if safety and security are antithetical to extraordinary faith?
What if the supernatural universe is more real than all we can see and feel and understand?
What if Thomas à Kempis, a fourteenth-century German monk, was right when he said that we are never safe in this life?
What if the only way to be safe is to look beyond this life and trust the incomprehensible, the invisible, and the impossible?
If there were charts or formulas for this priceless, perilous journey, there would be no need for faith.
Habakkuk lived in Judah some six hundred years before Christ during a difficult time in the country’s history. He was filled with questions and often cried out for answers. He wanted God to fix everything and return life to peace and affluence. But God had something else in mind. He took away Habakkuk’s comfort and security, leading him to the very edge and forcing him to look beyond. Habakkuk wrote, “I trembled inside . . . my lips quivered with fear. My legs gave way beneath me, and I shook in terror” (Habakkuk 3:16).
In spite of his fears, Habakkuk stepped up to the challenge. He did not flee or raise his fist in anger. Instead, he saw the obstacles before him as an opportunity to deepen his faith and draw closer to God. In fact, his final thoughts in the short book that bears his name, read: “The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights” (Habakkuk 3:19).
Thinking back on my walk thirty feet above the ground, I have to agree with Habakkuk. For even when I’m fearful, God can lead me upon the heights. He can lead me to the very edge and over it. He is my strength and comfort. No matter what.