As many of you know, I love to hike. My hiking availability has been hit or miss this past fall/winter, and I’ve gotten a bit out of shape. This weekend when I hit the trail, I wasn’t even 100 yards from my parked car when I began wondering, “Why on earth do I think I like to do this?”
The trail I had chosen was quite steep, and I found my legs and my lungs protesting quite quickly.
From my home, I often find myself dreaming of being out in nature and exerting my energy climbing above where all the other people are and celebrating the peace and solitude I find when I get there. Nevertheless, here in this moment, I briefly, forgot about all that and could only hear my heart pounding and feel my legs burning despite the 30-degree temperatures.
Recognizing my weakness, I gave myself permission to pause, even this early on in my hike, and remember, “I’m not in a race, and it will be worth it”. I knew that this particular trail was slated as “difficult” and that if I wasn’t gentle with my weakness now, I probably wouldn’t make it to my “peak” moment at all.
Over the course of the next hour, I allowed others to pass me by without any shame or guilt. I would move over graciously, grateful for the chance to stop and catch my breath whenever someone else on the trail came near.
When I reached the hardest portion that involved using ladders and cables to scale up the mountainside for the last quarter mile…. I was thankful that I had conserved my energy and my strength so far. Up the ladders, I climbed, no longer questioning my desire to be there- totally inspired by the difficulty of the task before me.
After enjoying my “mountaintop” moment for quite a while, I began the descent back down to more normal elevations. On the way down, I ran into a young man in the middle of the ladder section, completely frozen in fear. He was gripping onto the rock side with all his might and the look in his eyes screamed in terror as if certain death was imminent. As I passed by him and his friends, I offered some encouragement, but then continued down not wanting to upset him or make him feel ashamed of his predicament.
It was then that I noticed another man, climbing up the ladders from down below. This man had an air of confidence and assurance about him that were hard to ignore. As he reached the frightened young man on the rock ledge between ladders-, I heard him speak.
He said, “My name is Ron (name changed) and I am a very experienced hiker. I see that you’re having some trouble here.” I heard the boy confirm that he was afraid of heights. Ron continued by telling him that he had hiked over 4000 miles and that he knew exactly what to do for him. He prompted for the frightened one’s name- and engaged him in calm conversation while moving closer to him on the ledge.
I paused in my climb down the ladder to look up. Ron was standing on the ledge now directly behind the boy- if the boy fell, Ron was surely going to go first. His arms reached around the boy and held onto the rock … I heard him explain that this position was the safest thing he could do. He spoke calmly to the boy, while allowing his body to extend the feeling of safety into the boy’s back.
He explained his plan to the boy, he let him know that he was going to go with him down the ladder. His feet would be one rung below his, and his arms would safely guide him down. He explained why going down backwards was safer than turning forwards to go down ( as some others had been doing). He assured him in the calmest most peaceful and confident voice, that this is what was going to happen. Then they did exactly what he had foretold.
This morning, the Lord reminded me of this event and called my attention to some very important lessons that far surpassed my usual “peak” appreciation memories.
First- the rescuer introduced himself.
It was critical for the one frozen in fear to know who it was that had come to help.
It’s the same with God and us. God comes to us saying, “I am”….telling us who He is, so that we will not fear his assistance. He lets us know not only His name, but more also the important aspects of who He is. He assures us of his “qualifications”. He lets us know that He’s been doing this sort of thing for a while. His “been there, done that” is meant to put us at ease.
When I am stuck in fear, or any negative emotion, hearing who God is, who my rescuer is… what His name is, and what His experience with situations like mine are- all serve to calm my distress levels. I might still be on the ledge, but my body responds by slightly calming my nerves.
Second- the rescuer calls him by name.
Calling us by name, not only continues to put us at ease, it draws our attention to the one speaking! When I say your name, don’t you look my way?
John 10:3 clearly says that He calls us by name. “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”
When the Lord calls us by name, it is not only an intimate and tender thing to do; it will keep us focused more on the caller than on our predicament!
Third- the rescuer stays close.
Even though the boy was so frozen in fear that he could not turn to look behind him, he could feel and hear his rescuer right behind him.
No matter how dangerous of a situation we get ourselves into, Immanuel is always with us, right there with us, so physically close, that if we just close our eyes we can feel him supporting us and keeping us safe. He is constantly in step with us, even when we wander off into dangerous places.
He never leaves our side.
Fourth- the rescuer explains what’s coming next!
On the very edge of the cliff, the rescuer didn’t ask the boy to begin moving until after he told him what was to come. He tells him the plan. He lets him know what to expect.
Is not our heavenly Father just as good?
“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” John 16:13
He does speak to us and let us know what’s coming. Not because He’s into “fortune telling” or wanting us to get prepared, but because He wants to put us at ease.
Letting us know what’s next- IS WHAT PREPARES US.
The Rescuer is all about comforting and calming our fears so that we can stay focused on who He is, what He is doing, and how we can follow Him, knowing without a doubt that He will keep us safe.
As I close out this post I realize that you may not be hanging onto a cliff side with sweaty shaky arms right now- but you just might need a rescuer.
Your rescuer is coming to your side; in fact He’s already there. Listen- as He introduces himself and begins your rescue.
You can trust Him.