I was petrified. The dictionary definition says, ‘So frightened that one is unable to move.’
That was me, 9 metres high above the ground, standing on a wobbly piece of wood, only 18 centimetres wide.
At both sides of my body, level with my head, each fist was wrapped tightly around a thin piece of rope that swayed as my knees shook in fear. This was the moment I was expected to let go of each rope and catch another two which seemed so far in front of me, that I could only reach by leaning forward and falling to my death.
If the two 7 year old girls who were behind me knew what I was thinking, they would have laughed. Having originally been in front of me, they had already completed the course and were now positioned at the back of the queue, desperate for me to stop acting like a baby and get on with it.
But I couldn’t. All I could see were tottering platforms suspended from the ceiling so that whenever anyone placed a foot onto them, they would shake to the left, to the right, backwards, forwards and in a wobbly circle. To make matters worse, I had only just begun the 35 metre course and so there were many more obstacles to tackle before I would complete the trek and come back to a steady surface.
I looked back at the instructor who was shouting persuasive words in my direction in the hope that I’d realise that even if my foot did slip, I wasn’t going to fall. However, although I could see I was strapped into a safety harness, all I could focus on was the ground beneath. It was a white roof covered in black netting. But the net had large rips in it and beneath those rips I could see gaping holes in the roof, revealing nothing but darkness.
“Have people lost their footing before and wandered into those cavities, never to be seen again?” “Is that a bloody arm I can see reaching up to me for help after a tragic descent last week?”
I looked back again, desperate for the instructor to somehow come and get me. I didn’t care how foolish I looked – all I wanted was to be lifted up and taken bodily back to a piece of ground that had a concrete foundation.
To my horror, he showed no empathy and gestured for me to move so the 4 people waiting behind could carry on being the High Rope Heroes they were.
At another point, I stopped again, this time pleading with the Lord to give me the strength and confidence to do the impossible.
“Step onto the pegs and hug the pole.” came the bemused voice of the instructor.
As I flew onto a thick wooden pole, it swung side to side like a Newton’s Cradle at top speed. There were three more to go.
Well, I eventually made it through to the end and even though I was a little aggrieved that I wasn’t given a helping hand back onto safe ground, I was too busy thanking the Lord that I finished the course to be bothered with scowling at the man.
That was until he casually mentioned that sometimes when young children have a meltdown halfway round, he zooms across on his zip-wire and fetches them back.
I narrowed my eyes and glared at him intently. “You mean you could have come and got me?”
He smiled shrewdly and avoided my gaze.
Suddenly, displeasure turned to gratefulness as my mind was filled with the reality of God’s love for his children:
- God won’t always take us out of difficult circumstances, because he wants us to learn that with Jesus, we can get through them. The bible reminds us, ‘I can do everything through him who gives me strength.’ (Philippians 4:13)
- Even though it seems we will fall at the next step in life, we are being held up by him. He is our safety harness, that will never fray, snap or melt. In an arduous situation, nothing brings more peace than knowing we are secure in him. ‘The eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms.’ (Deuteronomy 33:27)
- The instructor was watching me closely. If I had slipped and ended up dangling in the air, or if I had remained petrified, he could have easily come to my rescue. God never takes his eyes off us and is aware of our every emotion. He truly will not suffer us to go through more than we can bear. ‘I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.’ (Psalm 32:8)
- I was unaware that help was at hand should I fall. I am also not always conscious that God is waiting to help me, but my lack of knowledge of this fact doesn’t stop it from being true. ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble’. (Psalm 46:1).
- The instructor did not really care about me. It is his job to keep the queues moving and he’s paid for making sure everything runs smoothly. When I landed back on sturdy pastures he wasn’t stood there applauding and telling me how he was routing for me to succeed. In contrast, when we feel like we cannot go on, God does not mock or roll his eyes in impatience. He is our heavenly father who cheers us on and delights when he sees us conquer a difficult task. His immense love for us means he will not leave us to face trials on our own. ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.’ (Deuteronomy 31:6)
The little girls, my husband and my daughter who had waited so patiently behind me, all went on to do 6 more rounds, including going backwards and doing it blindfolded. I may not have enjoyed my birthday treat, but I came away from that sky high adventure with a fresh appreciation of God’s love and a stronger faith that he is always with me.