By ANNIE WESCHE
In that moment, I wished to be anywhere but there, doing anything other than what I was considering doing. Flooded with dread, I gazed up at the daunting challenge looming over me — a single telephone pole towering around 32 feet up into the grey, brooding sky above us. Small metal pegs jutted out from the wood in spaced increments from top to bottom, serving as hand and footholds, diminishing in size the higher the climb. And up at the top, hanging several feet out from the pole, was a suspended trapeze bar, aptly named “The Leap of Faith.” This was the final crowning challenge to conquer at the team-building ropes course.
I’m not sure what the “faith” was that the course creators had in mind. Perhaps faith in the ropes to prevent you from plummeting to the hard earth below? Faith that the distance from the top of the pole to the trapeze bar was reachable with a single leap? Faith that even though there was no safety net, the person on belay would be there to keep me from falling? Faith that this sort of exercise was … good for me?
As someone who doesn’t do well with heights and even gets a bit shaky standing on the low rungs of a ladder, you may be wondering how I came to find myself as a participant in this course. The truth is, I wasn’t at all happy to find myself there that day. A co-worker had accepted an offer to use the course for free, as a “fun, team-building exercise” for a group of us. And upon my very strong resistance to the idea, I was chided by my co-worker that it would be rude not to accept the generous gift we’d been extended. So, reluctantly, I gave way to the pressure and several days later found myself standing before this towering terror, willing myself to climb.
Somehow, that day, I had made my way through the less difficult course challenges, but I wasn’t overcoming my discomfort with heights — my aversion was actually growing — and I desperately wanted out of the entire situation. But sensing that the final “Leap of Faith” was inevitable for me, I opted to go last, hoping I would see my teammates successfully enjoy the climb and subsequent leap. One by one, each of them climbed up that swaying pole, managed to eventually stand on top, and then took their leap towards the bar. And one by one, I watched them all miss and fall hard into the hold of the safety rope. One of them managed to touch the bar, but rather than holding on, they tore open the skin on their hands. Not a big seller for this girl, as I waited for my turn to come. While I had hoped to watch their easy ascents and victorious catches of the bar and that it would lend me some much-needed courage — there was none to be found.
Eventually it was my turn, and going against every desire in my being, I attached my safety harness and secured my helmet. With the instructor and my teammates offering their best encouragement, and my heart beating loudly in my chest, I took the first few steps of the climb. “You’ve got this, Annie! You’re going to feel so great once you accomplish this! Remember, if you fall, the rope has you — you’re totally safe!” As I climbed at a snail’s pace, all their motivational shouts faded into a background hum as I began inwardly wrestling with the Lord. What is this even for, Lord? What can I gain from this miserable exercise? Why am I doing this!?
Eventually, I found myself 30 feet higher and hugging the top of that pole — eye to eye with the meager eight inch diameter — contemplating just how I was supposed to get my feet up there. Undeniably by the grace of God, I, Annie Wesche, non-lover of heights or adrenaline rushes, eventually found myself standing on top of a telephone pole, horrifyingly swaying in the wind, and commanding my yelling cheerleaders below to stop all the noise so I could calm my trembling nerves and pray. After what felt like an achingly long time, I cried aloud, “Jesus, You helped me get all the way up here. If we’re going to do this, we’re going to CATCH THAT BAR!” I squeezed my eyes shut, blindly stretched out my hands, gave an all-out faith-leap, and a second later — the instant I felt cold metal on my skin — gripped the bar with all my might! Cheers erupted below as I swung back and forth among the clouds, holding tightly to that elusive trapeze bar, displaying on my face a huge smile of relief and joy!
We all face hard things of varying degrees in this earthly life. And I have seen thus far that there are certain hard things we determinedly face because we are motivated. We see that it’s worth going through for what can be gained or learned through all the “hard” — like caring for a loved one who is sick, laboring through a financial crisis to get to a place of freedom from debt, or pressing into the Lord amid heartbreak to lay hold of our comfort and security in Him. But there are also times when we don’t see the point of the hard road given. We shrink back and desperately want to look for a way out, another path to take.
Swinging from that trapeze bar was a wonderful feeling, no doubt, but not one I have a longing to relive. The course didn’t help my aversion to heights and, truthfully, it didn’t serve to strengthen the bonds of our team that day either. And as I endured that climb and leap, it all seemed like such unnecessary misery. While it could easily be said that I caved to peer pressure and “got myself into that mess,” or even be argued, that God’s not “in” things like that, I can testify that it was in that very place that God revealed Himself at the center of it all to bring me something precious — another unforgettable encounter with Himself.
It was a leap of faith for me. Not as the world intended it, but as God redeemed and purposed it. Regardless of the situation or how I found myself there, I cried out to God and fully threw myself into His hands, trusting that even in something that felt so purposeless, He was there with me. And I found Him to be unfailing! Beyond my limited sight of the situation — beyond all I felt in those moments of great discomfort and fear — God ushered me deeper into trusting who He is as my ever-present loving Father, my strength, my confidence, my security, and my gracious Redeemer!
I can only imagine, dear reader, that you have something in your life right now just like that telephone pole leap and may be asking, Lord, what is the point of this? Why is this in my life? Why must I face this? So, may I encourage you to freshly acknowledge that Your faithful God is right there in every situation of life you face. You can call out to Him at any moment, finding in Him the grace or strength or wisdom or comfort you need. You can put your full trust in the One who is Lord over your life — that He always has a purpose, even if you can’t quite see it yet.
Psalm 34 has long been a treasured favorite of mine — and a favorite that I shared with my Mum. She and I memorized the Psalm years ago and often, throughout various challenges or trials we faced, we would recite it to one another and meditate on the treasured truths within it. Have you troubles or fears or tears? Bring your “towering telephone pole” before the Lord, open up His Word, and savor the eternal, unchanging words He has given to you. Declare your trust in His goodness and remember — even through all the “hard” He is always up to something good and He is attentive to your cry!
I sought the Lord, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to him and were radiant,
And their faces were not ashamed.
The angel of the Lord encamps all around
Those who fear him, and delivers them.
Oh, taste and see that the lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
… Those who seek the Lord shall
Not lack any good thing.
They eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their cry.
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears,
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to thosewho have a broken heart,
And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
Psalm 34: 4-5, 7-8, 10, 15, 17-18