I'm afraid of heights. No, that's not quite right. I'm really afraid of heights. More so than any other thing or situation I've ever come across, being up high terrifies me in a way few can ever understand.
The thing about this kind of fear is that it's irrational. I have no reason to be afraid of heights, yet the thought of being up high frightens me intensely. As a result, I'm uncomfortable looking out windows in high rise buildings. I have trouble taking the elevator over the stairs in a tall building. Even driving over a bridge gives me th creeps - I've never actually been able to walk across one of those grate bridges without my eyes closed.
I've spent a long time trying to figure out just why I have this fear of heights. Why do I become a nervous wreck when I'm more than 10 feet off the ground? I go out of my way to put myself in situations where I have to face, control, and attempt to conquer this fear. I've roofed houses. I go rock climbing. I go hiking on trails in the mountains that cross steep cliffs and run along deep gorges.
Each and every time, I'm confronted by a single thought:
If I go over the edge, I can't stop myself from falling all the way to the bottom. I have little to no control over my situation. I want out!
I am afraid of the height because I have no control over it. I am entirely at the mercy of the force of gravity. I'm also depending on my equipment to keep me safe: if my harness fails, if my boots slip, if the rock crumbles, if anything goes wrong I have no failsafe. There is no net to catch me.
Like most everyone else, I feel the inexorable need to be in control of my situation and my surroundings. Not being in control instills in me a sense of fear. Fear that something will inevitably go wrong and my not being in control will be the spark that ignites the powder keg.
Last week I had a deep conversation about what trust in God really means.
Most of us struggle with giving ourselves over completely to God's will. We offer ourselves up and say, "please take my life and do with it what you want." Then He responds and we shrink back. "Well, that wasn't completely what I had in mind ..."
I'm afraid of heights because I don't trust the object holding me up or my ability to remain on that object. I know that I won't be in complete control of whatever situation in which I find myself, and that uncertainty destroys any mote of self-confidence I might have.
At times, I'm afraid of trusting God. Not because I think He'll fail me - He never has - but because trusting in Him means giving up control. It means leaning over the edge of a cliff and trusting that I won't fall.
Think about that for a minute.
I go rock climbing several times a year. I attach a pair of quickdraws to a pair of brackets bolted into the rock. I put on my harness and double-back all of the webbing, then I tie a clean figure-8 to my harness and run the rope back through my safeties. I have a trained belayer on the ground with an equally well-fit harness run the rope through an ATC belay device. As I start climbing, we yell back a set of rehearsed commands to keep things in sync while I'm on the face.
For all intents and purposes, I am completely safe. Often, the belayer is by brother, whom I trust more completely than any other person I've ever known.
But still, pausing halfway up the rock and leaning back on the rope scares me to my very core.
To trust God with complete control over my life - my financial situation, my family, my future, and my happiness in this life - means I need to daily lean back from the rock and put everything in his hands. If that doesn't scare you, then you probably don't fully understand what you're risking when you tell yourself to trust in God.
Fear is our own natural reaction to giving someone or something else control over your immediate and/or long-term situation. To trust in someone else, we need to control the fear we have that they will let us down. To truly trust someone, we need to eliminate this fear entirely.
Trust is a scary thing - we learn trust through human relationships which are inherently fallible. But since God is infallible, trusting Him should be easy, right?
Leaning over a cliff and trusting that my brother won't drop me is difficult. But testing that trust deepens our relationship and makes it easier to trust him in other situations as well. So if leaning over a cliff every day is what it takes to build a deep relationship with and strengthen my trust in God, I'll do it gladly.