The rest of my travel companions had already taken their turns and there I stood - unsure that I could conquer this fear. Uncertain that I really wanted to do this, but the shame of saying that I was the only one not to, I did as the tour guide said and walked to the edge of the cliff.
My wife and I took a little trip at the end of March with some dear friends to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. It was a glorious week respite from all things busy. We made a bunch of memories, enjoyed the balmy weather while it was cold and snowy at home, and also had the excursion of a lifetime.
As I have mentioned to stoppers-by in the past - those who don't know me personally - I am not a small man. I am 6-5 and not the skinny high school kid I was in my senior picture.
Being that big and now slowed from years of athletic wear and tear, there are a number of things that bother me. Mice, bats and pretty much any thing else that darts and bobs and weaves quicker than I can react.
There, I said it. I have some fears; some things that I don't like and am mildly afraid of.
Heights is another fear I have. Perhaps it comes from falling out of a tree and breaking a wrist when I was five or six - I don't know - but it is a real issue. Perhaps the fear comes from the realization that if I get it all moving in one direction, there isn't a whole lot chance in breaking the fall.
Which brings me back to the trip. As we planned what kinds of things we might do on our vacation, this Adventure tour came to the top of everyone's list. It included climbing the Mayan ruins of Coba, zip-lining and repelling down into a cenote, which is basically a pool at the bottom of a bat-infested cave.
"Will you do that?" asked Angie, one of our travelling companions.
"Not without a lot of prayer between now and then," I replied. "I hate heights."
I knew I wasn't alone in my fears, but I was serious about my trepidation in this journey. I did pray a lot between the time of booking the trip and when Alonzo the tour guide showed up the next morning.
And so there I stood, helmet on, harness now strapped to the wire that would hold me as I zip-lined over crocodile-infested waters to the cliff on the other side.
"Take this stick," said Alonzo. "It is your brake. Put it behind your head, behind this piece here, and when you get about halfway across, just turn it."
"This crooked stick is my brake?" I was worried about snapping the stick off as I approached the other side.
"Okay, Chris, walk off the cliff and don't forget to use your brake," Alonzo said.
"What if the brake doesn't work?"
"Crash position (knees to chest) and boom!" said Alonzo.
"Crash position, boom?"
"Crash position, boom!"
One more prayer, and there I went. It really wasn't too bad. It was even kind of fun, until it happened. The brake didn't snap, but it didn't slow me down either.
And then it was gone - out of my hand - just hanging on the wire. I was forced to stick the landing (I got a 10 from the young Italian judges who were along, I believe), and was no worse for the wear. The repelling was a similar experience - a leap of faith, really.
Remembering all of this has me thinking today.
Hold on tight! What do we hold onto?
Psalms 91:14 from the Message reads this way: "If you'll hold on to me for dear life," says God, "I'll get you out of any trouble. I'll give you the best of care if you'll only get to know and trust me. Call me and I'll answer, be at your side in bad times."
Psalms 63:8 reads this way:
"I hold on to you for dear life, and you hold me steady as a post."
John 6:35-38 says: Jesus said "I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don't really believe me. Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don't let go."
Hold on tight! It is clear to me that scripture tells us it is a good idea to hold on tight - to hold on for dear life to God. Jesus himself tells us that once we run to him, that he will hold on and not let go.
Yesterday was one of those days that I would just as soon forget. It was a brutal Monday in my world and sucked some life out of me. If it were a test, I am afraid I didn't score as well as I would have liked.
That fact alone makes me thankful that Jesus said "I hold on and don't let go."
But what about when life is really hard? What about those times when we get that diagnosis, or lose our job, or have a bad month business-wise? What about those times when we find ourselves in a spiritual desert? What about those times when we give into the temptation to gossip about people around us?
One of my favorite singers is a guy named Bebo Norman. He has a number of popular songs that you have probably heard, but one of his best in my mind is a little more obscure, one called "The Only Hope." He sings about all these things that God wants for us, and yet how we settle for so little most of the time.
The chorus goes like this: "I'm begging you to hold on tight, begging you to hold on tight, begging you to take my life from me. So tell me you won't let go, tell me you won't let go, cuz you are the Only Hope for me."
Bebo's song and my song are much the same most days. I have a tendency when I don't call on God to settle for much less than he wants for me. I am learning, though, that I must hold onto the people God has put in my life, and hold onto his Word. I must hold onto the promises he give us in scripture, like that passage in John 6.
In the end, all God wants from us is a willing heart. A heart willing to call on him, willing to hold onto Jesus. I don't know what your day will bring you - good or ill - but my prayer today is that you believe what Jesus says, that you believe he actually meant everything he said, and that if you hold onto him, that He won't let you go.
Hold on tight...