I go rock climbing in Montana during the summer. I’m not a fantastic rock climber, and I certainly don’t get a lot of practice living in flat-as-a-pancake Florida, but I do love it.
Rock climbing has a meditative quality about it. It requires calming your nerves, staying in the moment, controlling your breath, and taking the next small step, over and over again, until you reach the top.
And although you are high in the air, attached to the side of a mountain by a rope, rock climbing isn’t really dangerous. As long as your rope is strong and you can tie the right knot, you’re fine.
Yes, you may slip. You may drop a few feet until your harness catches you. When that happens, you curse under your breath, chalk your hands, reposition yourself, and try again. No harm, no foul.
The only thing that can ruin your climb is getting stuck and not moving at all.
When I get scared, I tend to freeze.
It’s usually when I’m at my weakest. When I’ve been locked in one position for too long, searching for my next hand hold and unable to find it. Muscles shaking, heart racing, hands frantically searching overhead for something to grab on to.
But nothing is there. No finger holds. No cracks. Just slick, flat rock.
I begin to panic. What if, what if, what if…
I know the answer is to just step up anyway. To trust that the handhold will be there when you need it.
Even if you can’t see it, or touch it, from where you are at the moment–the trick is believing it’s there and knowing you’ll be able find it when the time is right.
Believing what you need will be there even when you don’t have confirmation it’s there–that’s faith.
Acting on that belief is courage.
Frederick Douglass languished in slavery for twenty years.
During that time, he prayed for redemption, for liberation, for justice, and for freedom.
For twenty years, it never came. Until he prayed with his legs.
I can’t imagine how frightened he must have been; the amount of courage it took for him to stare near-certain death in the face, and still take the risk.
To run. To escape.
I don’t know many of us with that kind of courage.
Or is it that I don’t know many of us with that kind of faith?
I’m in a heart racing, palm sweating, frantic handhold-searching situation now.
Three and a half years ago, I could have worked with the state attorney’s office to criminally prosecute the guy who’s stalking us.
I was too afraid to do it at the time.
What if I wasn’t a good witness? What if I panicked and couldn’t testify? What if I had to sit in a room with the man who was stalking my family and give him a deposition? What if he got to cross examine me? What if I lost the case?
What if, what if, what if…
All I knew was that I wanted to stay as far away from that maniac as possible.
So I did nothing.
I thought I could ignore him and he would go away.
I was so very wrong.
So, today, I’m calming my nerves and doing my best to stay in the moment.
Controlling my breath. Taking one small step at a time.
Reaching out. Asking for help.
Deciding on which doors to knock.
Making appointments, writing letters.
Stepping out in faith, expecting help to come.
Gathering my courage to reach for that next hand hold.
I’m ready now.
To pray with my legs.