Terror gripped me as I stood at the base of the 20-metre pole I was expected to climb. Thick at the bottom it narrowed to the peak where the diameter was less than the length of my foot. For an individual who has panic attacks at the thought of peeking out a second storey window, this was a big ask. Jay, my life-mastery team-mate coupled my body harness to the safety rope, gave me a reassuring pat on the shoulder and whispered, “You can master it.” I took a step and planted my foot with determination on the first climbing spike.
For months I had maintained that this was a part of the life-mastery program in which I didn't need to be a participant.
What had changed? What was my motivation? Perhaps it was the fear of failing in front of a couple of hundred fellow life-mastery participants. Maybe it was the fact that a TV camera crew stood ready and waiting to embarrass me nationwide if my courage wavered. It could just be fear.
Those who had made the climb previously encouraged me. “Do it Julie, you will learn so much.” “What will I learn?” I asked.
“We all need different lessons,” came the reply. “Just do it. Have faith that you will be enlightened.” I climbed the first four spikes. The only thing I was learning was that my fear of heights was absolute truth. Eight spikes up, the spikes were getting smaller and farther apart and I had to grip more firmly and take bigger steps. Faith is a bit like that, I thought. Take the first step, trust in small ways then as faith grows cling more tightly to God and take bigger steps of faith. Something to think about! I reached the summit of the pole. A considerable distance from the top the climbing spikes ceased. The challenge was to figure out how to balance on top of the pole. This task daunted me. It was impossible and besides I was terrified of balancing on top. I have a physical disability that makes balance at the best of times a challenge.
Feeling inadequate to the task I began to rationalise. I had achieved something, more than I thought I would and my balance problem was a plausible excuse.
The climb wasn't wasted as I had conquered the fear of heights and had even had some thoughts on faith. Surely I could just climb back down the pole. I hadn't failed and others would recognise this achievement. As my foot searched for a descending spike a member of my team yelled out, “Step up!” Next thing I knew I was on top of the pole, balancing and exhilarated. The view of the beautiful coastline was magnificent.
I was seeing it from a perspective that was impossible from the ground or even part way up the pole.
It is impossible to do things in my own strength, thinking or efforts. God calls me to step up even when from my human perspective life and challenges appear hopeless. He doesn't ask me to think about or work out how to do it, He simply asks me to step up. He asks me to shift my focus from me and what I can do, to a focus on what He can and will do for me and through me and what His will is for me.
“Step up,” He says. “I will show you the way. I will give you the strength. I will make the impossible possible.” In stepping up for God I get a new view of God, a magnificent view of who He is and what He can do if I say, “Yes Lord, here I am. What is Your will for my life?” He asks me to step up, to not conform to the customs, behaviours and thinking of this world. To step up and let him transform my thinking, teach me His will and see the beauty of life He is offering me.
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Four metres out from the top of the pole was a trapeze bar. The object, as I understood it, was to leap from the pole and grasp this bar. Before the climb I had hypothesised that this would be a metaphor for goal achieving. Terror struck again. What if I missed? Would this saddle me with the belief that I was a failure, unable to set goals and attain them? “Faith Julie, faith,” a voice whispered.
Suddenly my lesson was clear. This pole experience was a lesson in faith. My life has been very shaky in the faith department.
I realised that I would never do anything, never attempt anything, and never move forward unless there was always a safe, foreseeable, plausible outcome to grasp. Always there had to be a certainty of what was going to hap pen and a certainty that I could succeed before I would take a step. The bar was there for me to catch, then I would be lowered gently to the ground via the safety rope.
I had never seen anyone leap from the pole; I was the first climber at the seminar.
The result of just leaping off the pole into midair with no intent to grasp the bar was a totally unknown. It was decision time. I leapt from the pole into midair. I panicked as I free fell, feeling totally out of control. Then the safety harness gently but firmly slowed me and let me swing slowly, allowing me to get my bearings and enjoy the view as I descended to the ground.
God asks me to take such leaps and trust Him to take care of the journey and the outcome. He asks me to trust Him with what may seem terrifying or impossible, trust that He can bring it to pass for the honour and glory of His name. Sometimes it may feel as if my life is out of control, that the circumstance is out of control and I don't know what is going to happen. That is exactly when God steps in. The times when I have no control is often when He can use me the most. He is my safety harness and I can fall into His loving secure arms—a safe landing every time! n Abraham is an awesome example of faith. God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, a request that would appear to contradict God's principles. Abraham knew God's voice. It was a voice he recognised from years of daily companionship with God. Abraham had learned to trust fully. The request to kill his son seemed to contradict the divine promise that a nation would be created from Isaac's descendants. Stepping up in faith Abraham prepared to follow the command of God, believing that a God who had proved faithful in the past would have the answers and perfect outcome in this situation (see Genesis 22).
I also think of the story of Esther and how she took a leap of faith. She came before the king and asked to speak with him. This was a huge risk. If the king had been displeased, her life would be in jeopardy. She stepped up in faith and saved a nation (see Esther 5).
Another example: Daniel honoured God with his prayers even when a new law promised his death for doing so. His leap of faith landed him in the lions' den.
This event changed people's lives and bought recognition, honour and faith to the God of Daniel (see Daniel 6).
Dear God, so many times I am scared to step up in faith, scared because I am not sure of Your voice. Provide me with the knowledge of and the familiarity with Your still small voice. I am scared because at times even when I am sure of Your voice, what You ask goes against the desires of my heart. Give me the knowledge and peace that doing Your perfect will is all I need for an awesome life. I am scared because I know that living Your way may lead to hatred, ridicule or abandonment by those who put their faith in other things or choose not to believe. Give me the knowledge of Your friendship, steadfastness and love so I am not alone. Lord, give me Your strength to step up in faith. Amen.