Tuesday, April 1, 2014

An Unexpected Lesson in Trust by Ramona Callahan

I went on vacation with a couple of friends. I agreed to do something I had never done before on each day of the trip. (This because I had convinced my friend to do new things which had been a wonderful experience for her.) So we went on a cruise, which I had never done before, and at each stop we scheduled an excursion. Even though I was terrified of heights, on one of these excursions, I agreed to go on a zip-line. I’ve always said I didn’t want my fears to hold me back. I also thought it would be one single zip line! So this is what happened in Belize…

We took a bus into the jungle. It was hot and extremely humid. Our tour guide led us up a steep hill where we were instructed on the proper use and mechanics of zip-lining. We were also warned that we were crossing a “no turn back” zone. I knew it would be frightening, but I didn’t want to let down my friends, and I had come this far, so I continued with the group. As we climbed the path, I thought about how much I enjoy hiking and that this part would be fun. And then I saw it, the break in foliage looking out across the mountain. I had already come much higher than I realized. I was on the edge of the mountain with only a few trees protecting me from falling over. My stomach lurched. I took a deep breath and kept going, this time looking only at the path ahead. One foot at a time, one step after another, one foot in front of the other… this became my mantra. I also began to utter prayers under my breath. I prayed, “Lord, what have I done? How did I get myself into this? Please help me. Please give me courage or stupidity, whichever it’s going to take to get me through this.” As a single tear escaped, I wiped it with the side of my arm and exclaimed, “Whew, sweat is really pouring off me.” The climb went on for much longer than I expected. As we continued upward I became more and more anxious. I began to hear others in the group express a little nervous comment occasionally. Some would tease others. My friends were both in front of me. Occasionally my head gear even nudged one on from the back side. We had been climbing for what seemed an eternity when we reached a metal shelf. I couldn’t see beyond the jungle growth to know how high it was, but several people in front of me began to ooh and ah and gasp. 

This is probably a good time to note that I had been reading and praying a lot about learning to trust God. Trust sounded like a good thing, but I couldn’t find any “how to’s” or “three steps to trust.” I waited my turn and secretly wished it would never come. Maybe somehow the weather would suddenly turn and I’d be saved! Realizing this was a futile wish, I became resolved to the inevitable. I would have my turn, and I would have to jump like everyone else. I started listening to the instructions given to each person in front of me. One by one, the guide told each person to put their hands a certain way and jump. He worded it differently a couple of times, but each time the message was the same… “Jump.”  “You can do it!” “Don’t be afraid!” And the one I heard the most… “Just let go and go for it!”

I was determined to step up and just go for it like the others. But something different happened. The young man looked me in the eyes and said, “Just hold on and let me do all the work. I’ve got you.” At first I thought I must be hearing him wrong. He didn’t say that to anyone else, just me. 

And as I rode along the wire, I looked out at the expanse of the jungle from 285 feet above the forest floor. My, how creative our God is! It was beautiful. I could smell the fragrant blossoms below me rising in the heat. The wind from my decent blew the sweat off my forehead. The breeze helped me relax ever so slightly. I had done it. I was about to be on the other side, on my way down the path. I was elated to glide into the arms of the waiting crew member. My feet planted on the receiving metal shelf, and I was home free! I hadn’t wet my pants. I hadn’t had an anxiety attack in front of everyone else. I had made it. The smile on my face stretched every muscle all the way down my neck.  

And then I saw it. The next line. What? Another? I didn’t know I signed up for more than one. Oh no!  NO THANK YOU! I did it, now send me home!  

I had four more zip lines to go and two additional repels. 

But once again I heard these words, “Hold on and let me do the work.” At the next station I heard, “I will do the hard part. You just have to hold on.” Each time I heard these words, they sank deeper and deeper into my understanding. The other people were being told completely different messages. I listened to the words, but I heard the voice of my Father. I began to answer, “I have no choice. I am so afraid. I don’t know if I can keep going.” But in answer, in my spirit, I heard Him reply, “Just hold on. Let me do the work. I’ve got you. Trusting me doesn’t mean you won’t be afraid. It means you do it anyway knowing that you won’t fall because I won’t let you. I have never left you. I will never forsake you.”  

Tears began to roll down my face. Relief, understanding, joy, and indescribable gratefulness flooded my whole being. As I made my way back down that mountain, I had revival in my soul. God had used this adventure to teach me the lesson I had been praying to understand. He taught me through personal experience what it means to trust Him. He showed me line by line that trust gets stronger with practice. He showed me that just when I think I’ve got it down, the lesson changes. 

I came to the repelling part of the jungle. I had to step out into the air holding onto a wire and then let go. “Let go. Let go.” I heard the guide saying the words. I knew I had to loosen my hands. But somehow the instruction and the action were not connecting. As I hung mid-air, I had to learn another lesson about trust. When I finally released my grip, the man waiting below caught me with a pulley system. I started to giggle, then laugh. I’m sure I was going into shock. But I heard my Father once again, “Sometimes you will think you’re falling, but I will always catch you. I am connected to you just like this pulley system. You aren’t really falling at all, just quickly declining. And I am here.”  

I will never forget the way God taught me to trust. I’ve told this story a few times. I’ve used it to try to explain trust to others. But something tells me we never really learn from hearing someone else’s story. We learn by holding on to God and letting Him do the work. We learn by practicing over and over, and occasionally we feel like we are falling when we are really just going a different direction, still connected to God and protected by His grace and power, which is love. 

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