Today at camp we spent our afternoon out at the ropes course. Kids lined up for a solid hour just to get the chance to hook into a harness and climb up a pole about two stories tall. Then they had to prove their bravery by letting go of the pole and walking a good twenty feet across a board, suspended high in the air like little amateur acrobats.
When we arrived, everyone started putting on the gear, mostly talking up how not scared they were, even while looking nervously up into the sky at their destination. From the ground, things didn’t look so bad. It seemed like a do-able task. After all, how hard could it be: climb the pole, walk the board, fall backwards and let the harness catch you, float to the ground.
Some kids climbed up the pole quickly, sure-footed and brimming with confidence. They landed on top and walked quickly across the board, smiling the whole way. One girl basically danced her way across. A boy actually pulled out a yo-yo and yo-yoed the whole time he was walking on the narrow board way up in the sky.
But, then there were the other kids. On the ground, they felt ready. They were feeling proud of their determination to conquer this thing. They waited in line for a long time, some over an hour, and when it was their turn, a strong young man hooked their lifeline onto their gear, and they walked confidently up to the pole.
Then they started climbing.
When they were only about halfway up you could see their climb get slower and slower. They started glancing down at the ground with concern. By the time they reached the top, they were clinging to the pole, looking down with sheer panic on their faces, knees visibly shaking as their brains told them what a terrible, dangerous mistake they had made. From the ground this had looked do-able, but now that they were in the midst of the task, suddenly they froze. They began to wonder what they had been thinking. They were utterly terrified, and were absolutely convinced that they simply weren’t made for this task.
I watched them all. Some finally let go and walked shakily across while the strong young man held onto their lifeline and shouted encouragement. Some let go and gained confidence with each step across the board. But, some just wouldn’t let go. They stood suspended in time, loudly declaring to everyone that they simply couldn’t do it. All this despite the fact that the man with the lifeline kept reassuring the kids that he wasn’t going to let them fall. That he had them. That, no matter what, they were 100% safe as long as they were in his care.
As I stood there in the blazing Texas heat and took all of this in, it seemed like such a clear picture of what the Christian life is like. When are new to Christianity, things look fairly simple. The Christian life seems do-able. We know the things we ought to do and think and say and the things we shouldn’t. We know that our attitudes need to change. We feel like we can clearly see where we’re headed.
Then we start climbing.
And suddenly things don’t look so simple. We thought we would be sure-footed, but this calling looks different as our perspective changes. We get smack into the middle of this Christianity stuff and begin to realize what this really is: a call to die. A call to climb two stories up and let go, even though everything in us says that this is too hard, that we weren’t actually made for this task. That we are dangerously out of step with our culture and our times. That we were crazy to ever consider climbing up here, to the narrow way, when we see all of the familiar, comfortable trappings of the ground below us.
Some of us will freeze. Some will climb right back down the pole, remove the harness, detach the lifeline, and we’ll try to forget that we ever saw anything worth risking it all for in Christianity. We will decide that the Bible doesn’t say what we thought it said. That Christianity is a religion for ignorant, judgmental bigots, and we will walk away forever, to our eternal doom. We were never sincere in our desire to make that climb anyway.
But, some of us. Some of us will walk. We will walk out onto that narrow board, knowing that the lifeline is firmly attached, and that Jesus Christ himself is holding us steady. Some of us will step out there, shaky knees and all, and we will battle it out to the very end, walking one step at a time with our Savior. Even when it seems too scary. Even when everyone on the ground is telling us that we should give up on that foolishness and climb down once and for all. We will walk. And, when the end does come, we will lean into our lifeline, and He will catch us, forever in His hand. In the safety of His love and mercy and goodness forever.
We live in shaky times. We take our shaky steps. But, we walk.
Keep walking. He will never let you fall.