Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Eye on the Goal

Heart pounding like an out-of-control jackhammer and legs trembling, I had never been so terrified!

It was my own fault, really. I had made it my goal on this vacation to make sure that my fear of heights did not keep me from doing something that might turn out to be fun. So when my daughter, Bethany, urged me to go ziplining with her I told myself that I relished the challenge.

My fear of heights was strong. Okay, fear is a gross understatement—it’s more of a phobia. Put me near a precipice of any sort and I would begin to hyperventilate; sweating and shaking followed. I knew this about myself. Still, I said yes.

The guides for our group were Nathan and Richard. They turned out to be a couple of college kids, and highly addicted to adrenaline. Sure they were competent at their jobs. But as you will see, they were devious.

The course itself consisted of seven ziplines. We were taken by ATV to the first one and what did I find? My worst nightmare. The fifty-foot tall, tightly spiraled metal staircase led to the launch platform. There was no elevator to the top. They actually expected me to climb it!

Can I add that Nathan and Richard were also cruel?

Bethany bounded up the stairs, while I graciously volunteered to bring up the rear of the group. With every step upward my heart beat harder and my breath came faster. I could not look down. I could not look up. I could not look out. I could only look at the next step to take. One step at a time, I climbed. By the time I reached the top my phobia was in total control of all bodily functions. I clung tightly to the metal railing. Though I was safely clipped to it and in absolutely no danger, the entire structure swayed in the wind, fueling my fear.

“Jesus, help me! Jesus, help me! Jesus, help me!” The prayer echoed over and over in my mind. If the looks I got from the others were any indication, I just may have said the words out loud.

To her credit, not once Bethany did laugh. Instead, she gently patted my arm, repeating over and over, “You’re okay. You can do this.”

I did not believe her.

Once I was on the platform, climbing back down that death spiral was definitely not an option. So I forced myself to look out at the zipline, knowing it was the only way of escape.

Richard was the first to launch. His job was to stand on the far platform and let us know when to brake as we approached. The challenge was to not brake too soon, or we wouldn’t reach that platform. If we braked too late, we would slam into both Richard and the landing site.

Some choice. Trust me, I paid attention.

I watched as five different people stepped up. One by one they soared above the ground before reaching the landing platform. No one died. If fact, they actually seemed to enjoy it. Obviously, Nathan and Richard’s adrenaline virus had infected everyone except me. Still, my apprehension reduced fractionally. At least I was no longer on the edge of hyperventilation.

I stared straight ahead at the platform that was my goal, only wanting to get there alive, took a deep breath, and stepped off.

It was like flying! Well, like a baby bird first learning to fly. I was a little uncontrolled. Instead of flying with my face neatly facing my destination I twisted from one side to the other. But still, flying! I did not die, and when I reached the far platform I raised my arms in victory, yelling “I did it!”

zip-line for eye on the goal

The next two successful ziplines left me a little less suspicious of Nathan and Richard, but they were merely biding their time. To get to the fourth zipline we were again transported by ATV. And where did it take us?

To the daddy of the first metal staircase. This one was seventy—I kid you not—seventy feet tall. I really disliked Nathan and Richard in that moment.

About ¾ of the way up, I froze. I absolutely could not make my feet take another step. The gentleman behind was very kind and encouraging. But I. Could. Not. Move.

I called up to Bethany. “Bethany, I can’t do it!”

“Yes, you can!” she encouraged me. When I heard her voice I glanced ever so quickly up. She was standing at the top, just ten feet above me. That was enough encouragement for me to finish the climb. From then on, things got much easier. I actually enjoyed the last few ziplines and was even a bit sad when the adventure came to an end.

I shook Nathan and Richard’s hands, magnanimously forgiving them for torturing me. After all, they were addicted to adrenaline. It wasn’t their fault.

Looking back, I realize that the only way I could finish the course was to take one step at a time and keep my eyes on the goal. Those are lessons that carry over into my spiritual life.

When I was climbing those metal towers, I absolutely could not look too far ahead. It was all I could do to take that next step. If you had told me how many steps there were, or the challenge it would be to climb them, I would never have taken the first one! But that’s all God asks of us: take the next step that He asks. Indeed, often He only gives us enough light for one step at a time (Psalm 119:05). But as we do what He asks, one step at a time, He gives us enough light and enough strength for the next.

Other times it was imperative to look beyond where I was standing, and focus on where I wanted to go. Seeing the goal motivated me to keep going. Watching others and hearing their words of encouragement reassured me that I could.

The biggest surprise was that as I took the next step and focused on the goal, I actually began to trust my guides and enjoy the journey. Here on earth, what better guide is there than Jesus, the lover of my soul? What better journey that the one He has picked out, designed just for me? I think of all the many grand adventures I would have missed if I had refused to allow Him to direct my steps!

His words give me the courage to take risks, to obey Him, and to keep on keeping on: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)  That is His promise, and He is faithful to keep it.

God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind.  Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill? Numbers 23:19

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…                                                                  Hebrews 12:1-2a

 

Further reflection:

  1. In your life, has there been a challenge that seemed overwhelming to you?
  2. What lessons did you learn from it that can translate into your spiritual life?

Father, help me to cling to You when things seem too hard. Please give me the courage to take the next step as You give me direction, and to keep my eyes on You, knowing that You have promised to help and strengthen me. You alone are God, and are faithful to do what You have promised.

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