I felt my heartbeat increase with each step up the 70 feet of spiraling, aluminum staircase perched on top of an Ozark Mountain. It did not help that the narrow tower swayed and the wind intensified the higher I climbed, or that hot, hard asphalt lay below. Lots of deep breathing, some internal talk and prayer kept me from giving in to natural fear. Plus the string of friends and strangers crawling up behind me would not have been happy with a retreat in reverse. I confess, some fear of humiliation pushed me upward and out onto the plank that would launch my horizontal, dangling descent.
By this point, I had already entrusted my life two times to a couple of pulleys, a carabiner and a guide who tried to use bad comedy as a means to alleviate panic. As one among the quasi-dare devils in his care, I came to conquer the zipline on this hot and breezy day. And the previous two practice rounds hadn't gone like I hoped.
On the very first apparatus, which was safely close to the ground, I grabbed the cable with my brake hand at the end of the line. I was supposed to simply apply pressure as instructed to this first-time zipper just moments earlier. I felt like I left my right arm back 20 feet while the rest of me careened forward. Three days later, I'm still sore from that wrong move.
Then our group ascended the first practice tower where I timidly stood 35 feet above rocky soil on a small wooden block. There I was clipped to a line three times longer and significantly higher than the one I just failed to master. I didn't have to worry about braking this round because I came up slightly short of the end of the line. But en route, I bicycled my legs haplessly when I began twisting out of alignment. I must have looked like a drowning cat in my awkward attempt to sleekly slide down a steel cable.
So, by the time I stood on that 70-foot swaying platform, I had mustered incredulous determination. I willed myself to steer true and to not grasp, but to press down, when our second guide motioned it was time to brake. The loud command from my cheerleading son who bellowed, “Just push down!” assured my successful end to my zippy trip that stretch. When done correctly, the stop came smoothly and the satisfaction was exhilarating!
“I did it right!” I squealed with delight. The inner fight was over. The inner fear faded. And the shear pleasure of gliding 50 mph through tree tops without worry over how the trip would end replaced all the anxiety.
Such is life. We do it the hard way and pay the price. We wobble and stray and blunder our way in our own strength and feel foolish. And then, when we just trust and obey and listen to the cheer of a Christian brother, we find great satisfaction in the journey and in the end celebrate together.
My zipline experience taught me much about myself and more about the courage and love and help of my son. It challenged me to face my fears and conquer them. I learned that perfection doesn't come with intensity, it comes when I relax and let the Lord lead me and someone else cheer me. Life is not about perfect execution, but it can be a perfect ride nonetheless.
I want to live that way – without fear or fretting. I want to step off every block that presents itself and fling myself joyfully along the path that God has charted for me. I know He's holding me. I know He'll be there to catch me. I know He is cheering me and smiling with me over every success. The Lord has given instructions for life. He provides a life line straight to heaven through Jesus Christ. All we have to do is trust Him that it will all end right.
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.
“The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one. Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever.” (Psalm 28:7-9)