I could drive from NYC to Chicago on adrenaline no problem on just a few hours’ sleep beneath the glaring lights of the street lamps and mosquito buzzing, in the well-patrolled rest stops along the way. The final stretch from Chicago to Milwaukee, though, was agony—with windows down, music blaring and lots of snacks and, well, yes, cigarettes, I managed to stay on the road, make it home in one piece and surprise my parents with a visit.
It seems life is like that.
I remember those drives now as I realize there are more decades behind me than ahead and the final stretch looks steeper and narrower—suggesting greater measures of courage, trust, patience, forgiveness, more and more love and all the rest. As people I love slip away, I look at my mortality with greater scrutiny. Each day takes on a new sense of urgency. To just get it right.
I’ve been in training for years. My Trainer says, Steady, take My Hand, I’ve traveled this before. He’s observed me closely. He knows what’s in me, behind me, and what’s ahead, and He holds me accountable to my progress—or lack of it. He’s both Trainer and Friend, and He has my back.
This morning, I said goodbye to my son at the airport, hugging him with his mountain gear strapped on his back. He has taken up rock climbing. I think of him—ropes and hooks and all—as he scales a wall in his own training. I imagine the adrenaline he must feel if he misses a step. I think of my own adrenaline from fear of heights, but I think also of the steady guidance and knowledge of our teachers as we take on those greater heights. It was no easier letting him go today as a grown man than it was as a five-year-old sent off to spend the summer with my parents so I could teach summer school at the University. There is more of my son to love—he’s 6’4″—and my love continues to grow deeper and deeper as I climb higher and higher.
So does Mine for you.
I didn’t expect that my Trainer would need to use the rope he’d wrapped around his chest like a sash, to protect me from falling. I never imagined that I’d end up hanging mid-air as I dangled back and forth like a broken pendulum. I thought my feet were grounded; after all, we’d traveled so far together and I had followed so many of His Instructions. Hadn’t I? How could I misstep so easily? Will I never scale the heights with ease and confidence?
I listened to His steady measured breath as He slowly and carefully pulled me up alongside Him, onto the ledge of safety. I had never felt so helpless as when I’d clung to His rope—or as grateful to Him for saving my life.
Have I not kept your feet from falling that you may walk with me in the Light? The only thing that can separate us is fear. No fear will I accept, no harshness, no untruth. Your misunderstandings must be revealed and scrutinized so that you might move forward unhindered. There is no room now to carry along your extra baggage.
I was tired of his Words, tired of feeling I couldn’t do what was expected, and I didn’t want to let go of anything else, or say goodbye to anyone else. Anger rose in my throat and feeling overwhelmed, I surprised myself when I took a swing at Him. I wanted to keep my crutches; I wanted to hear “Wonderful!” from someone. Anyone. He didn’t move. In His silence, only the sound of the wind echoed between us.
I’m teaching you to stand in the midst of failures, loss, doubt. Stand. To stand takes more courage than to climb. Until you are ready, I will hold you. The best place to encounter My Glory and Power is in the seemingly impossible situations that are beyond your ability to manage. Don’t run from your inadequacy. This is where I want you.
I am in desperate need. Set me free from my prison so that I may be permeated with your preserving Power which influences the world for Good. Why do people take a stand against You? Why do nations rage? Give me great boldness in the threats surrounding me, to speak Your Words of Truth and Light. Stretch out Your Hand to perform wonders through Your Name.
I will lift you up! The song of My Love is written on your life. Share it. I walk with you. Take My Hand, I will guide your words. You don’t need to hear Wonderful! when you are Wonder-filled. Focus on the summit not on the small trials. Walk in My Wisdom and I will keep you safe. No one has ever sought My Presence or My Help in vain—only a breath of desire and I Am there, to replenish, to renew. Sometimes exhaustion is not a sign of lack of spirit, but of the Spirit, saying, Rest. Sometimes the giving up of work is a necessity.
Though My Way is steep and narrow, it leads to abundant Life. Stay on the path with Me. It’s not so narrow that I can’t walk beside you. I Am closer than the air you breathe, know every thought before you think it, every word before you speak it. My closeness terrifies some but you have nothing to fear. I Am Your Refuge. Since I love you, will you let Me live through you, shining my Light into the darkness?
Psalm 142:14, Proverbs 28: 25-26, and from my journal following my dad’s death, Summer 2016.
My son, equipped and ready to climb.