Ben Patterson, in Waiting, writes: (1)
In 1988, three friends and I climbed Mount Lyell, the highest peak in Yosemite National Park. Our base camp was less than 2,000 feet from the peak, but the clinb to the top and back was to take the better part of a day, due in large part to the difficulty of the glacier we had to cross to get to the top. The morning of the climb we started out chattering and cracking jokes.
As the hours passed, the two more experienced mountaineers opened up a wide gap between me and my less-experienced companion. Being competitive by nature, I began to look for shortcuts to beat them to the top, I thought I saw one to the right of an outcropping of rock- so I went, deaf to the protests of my companion.
Perhaps it was the effect of the high altitude, but the significance of the two experienced climbers not choosing this path did not register in my consciousness. It should have, for thirty minutes later I was trapped in a cul-de-sac of rock atop Lyell Glacier, looking down several hundred feet of a sheer slope of ice, pitched at about a fourty-five degree angle… I was only about ten feet from the safety of a rock, but one little slip and I wouldn’t stop sliding until I landed in the valley floor some fifty miles away! It was nearly noon, and the warm sun had the glacier glistening with slippery ice. I was stuck, and I was scared.
It took an hour for my experienced climbing friends to find me. Standing on the rock I wanted to reach, one of them leaned out and used an ice axe to chip two little footsteps in the glacier. Then he gave me the following instructions: “Ben, you must step out from where you are and put your foot where the first foothold is. When your foot touches it, without a moment’s hesitation swing your other foot across and land it on the next step. When you do that, reach out and I will take your hand and pull you to safety.”
That sounded real good to me. It was the next thing he said that made me more frightened than ever. “But listen carefully: As you step across, lean out a bit. Otherwise, your feet may fly out from under you, and you will start sliding down.”
I don’t like precipicies. When I am on the edge of a cliff, my instincts are to lie down and hug the mountain, to become one with it, not to lean away from it! But that was what my good friend was telling me to do. For a moment, based solely on what I beleived to be the good will and good sense of my friend, I decided to say no to what I felt, to stifle my impulse to cling to the security of the mountain, to lean out, step out, and traverse the ice to safety. It took less than two seconds to find out if my faith was well founded.
To save us, God often tells us to do things that are the opposite of our natural inclination. Is God loving and faithful? Can we trust him?
He is. We can.
Is it time for you to step out from where you are? (from the safety of where you have been or from the danger of your ill-advised short cut?)
It is for me and I will share with you my new venture in a few days.
Let’s take the step and lean out!
1, Fresh Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching from Leadership Journal – Edward K. Rowell; Faith, pg. 62