I strongly dislike high ropes courses. But, I adore zip lines. This has been my dilemma as a youth pastor’s wife for the past five years. High ropes courses seem to go along with youth retreats and camp experiences. I hate them. They terrify me. But, I want to participate, to be a positive example to teens who are also terrified. Plus, there’s almost always a zip line at the end! Did I mention that I love zip lines?
For those of you who have never experienced a high ropes course, let me explain the horrors. High ropes courses are called “high” for a reason. They are located in trees or atop poles that I’m sure are at least 50 feet in the air. Okay, maybe not 50 feet, but high enough so your brain is fully aware that if you fall, you will die. Even though your brain also knows you are strapped into harnesses and ropes and such, there is still a primal fear that never really leaves. All obstacles are designed to terrify you further and are concocted with tiny, wiggly, cables, moving pieces such as swings or logs, and wobbly ropes that you are supposed to use to balance.
I do not attempt high ropes courses because they are fun. I do them to get to the zip line. Until last weekend.
Last weekend, I was at a special women’s retreat and one of the optional afternoon activities was a high ropes course. There were no teens around to encourage, and I didn’t even know if there was a zip line at the end. But, I knew that I needed that high ropes course. I needed a physical example of trusting God.
My personal life is kind of like a high ropes course right now. It’s been a hard year…full of challenges, and fears, and doubts. Things haven’t gone like I wanted. Stuff fell apart. It’s been scary. It can be easy to look at the circumstances around me and wonder if God is really real, or if He’s really powerful, or if He really cares.
So there I was, standing at the bottom of the high ropes course that no one was making me do, talking to Jesus, telling Him that I needed a visual example of trust. I had my harness on, my lobster claws attached (see the next image), and my helmet secured to my head. The guy running the ropes belayed me as I clambered up some metal spikes stuck into the tree, and soon I was connecting my lobster claws to the cables and unclipping the carabiners holding me to my belay rope. It was just me, and my equipment, and the looming course.
The first obstacle was a single tightrope with a few short ropes to help you balance. They were too short to keep hold of across the entire tightrope, so you had to let go of one and grab another. Who puts a tightrope as the first obstacle??
I made my shaky way across, talking to Jesus, telling Him that I wanted to trust Him. Somewhere in the middle, this verse popped into my mind: “You hem me in behind and before…”
I couldn’t remember where the verse was located or what came after that, but I realized something. In the high ropes course of life, Jesus is our harness and lobster claws! He’s beneath our bum and above our heads securing us, holding us together, keeping us safe. In the same way that my equipment was protecting me up in the trees, Jesus was taking care of my crazy life.
When I teeter across a challenging obstacle and all I can see is a shaky wire under my feet and the 20 feet of air beyond that, my equipment is still holding me. I might not notice my equipment or even think about it, but that doesn’t make it less real. Isn’t that just like Jesus? When prayers don’t get answered, or we get terrible news, or things are falling apart, and all we can focus on is the scary challenge ahead…when the terror is real…when we can’t see Jesus…He is still there holding us.
People, I prayed my way through that high ropes course! I made it to the end in one piece. And guess what? There was a zip line! 🙂
Later, I looked up the phrase “You hem me in behind and before” on my phone and this is what I found:
“You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.” Psalm 139:5-6
The whole first part of Psalm 139 is all about God knowing us intimately and His Presence never leaving us. So much beautiful truth! Our challenges, our circumstances, do not change who God is. Our inability to see or notice Him does not change the fact that He is with us. I love that!
No matter what terrifying or heart wrenching obstacle you are on in this high ropes course called life, Jesus is your harness and your lobster claws! He will not let go and He will not fail. You can trust Him.