When I arrived, the parking lot was mostly empty. But over the course of the next hour or so, women arrived from many seasons of life, taking out of their cars duffle bags, suitcases, and pillows. They showed up at the YMCA camp for our church's women's retreat.
And with their arms full of necessities, each one brought needs below the surface: heavy hearts, deep wounds, weariness, desperations with all kinds of disguises, a hunger to belong, and a strong desire to hear from God.
I am not a "retreat person," but I know from experience that I need to seek out the stitches of spiritual formation in daily ways, the weekly gathering of God's people, and those opportunities to listen, to ask, to go a little deeper in relationship with Him. I have found those times are not just something else to put into my already busy schedule, not the things that tie me down, but release me and cause His strength change my heart degree by degree.
On my way to the meeting hall, I passed the zip line, which looked even higher this year. Done that once. No need to repeat that particular fear, I chuckled to myself..
But on the last afternoon, chatting with a new friend, and passing that skyscraping zipline tower as we headed back to the dining hall, she turned and said, "Come on, let's do it." My reluctance rose up like a shield around me.
No, no. Can't do it. Not my skill set. Not my idea of fun.
Amid that litany of very fine and legitimate excuses, I heard a whisper inside me, "This is not about fun." but something much deeper than that.
We climbed up to the lower platform. I can back out at any time, I reassured myself.
A young woman clipped us into the harnesses. You need this, and this, and this, as she handed us the pieces of equipment, piece by piece, things that I have no idea why, or what, or how they work, not to weigh us down, but to prepare and equip us, and to free us to do the task staring us in the face.
Be strong in the Lord
and in the strength of His might.
Put on the whole armor of God...
Ephesians 6. 10-11
We had pretty much all that armor, it appeared. And then, she didn't just hand me a helmet, but tightened the strap and made it secure.
And take the helmet of salvation,
and the sword of the Spirit,
which is the Word of God.
Ephesians 6. 17
We were ready, so equipped, that essentially we didn't even have to hold on by ourselves. So far, no big deal. We were, at the time of this picture, a whopping ten feet off the ground.
We began to climb the tower stairs, winding our way, up, up up, to the higher platform, the place for which we had been equipped. With each stair tread, my courage decreased. And then, I caught a glimpse of reality. Whoa, it is a really long way down.
"I can't do this," I said to the young woman at the top who was strategically positioned to encourage me and to slip me onto the cable. I thought about how many times in life God has placed people -- sometimes strangers -- who handed me a word of courage when I desperately needed it.
She just smiled gently at me. She hears those same words hour by hour, day by day. She hasn't lost anyone yet.
I stood paralyzed, looking so far down. I simply could not step off that manmade cliff.
"Look out not down," she said, "and if you sit and rest on the harness, it will carry you."
Lowering myself, resting on that harness, I began to roll forward, slowly and gently, beyond my own strength, into a new dimension of trusting God. Resting on that harness. That's all I had to do. And instead of FRIGHT in capital letters, a cool breeze rushed past my face, the world opened up in front of me, high above the trees, and a few friends down on the ground cheered as fear lost its grip on me.
Analogy aside, God was carrying me. I didn't have to know where or when this wild ride would end, but it was an incredible sense of being held secure in an impossible place, an awareness of just being held, where my feet didn't touch bottom, beyond my control, exceeding my puny idea of strength.
As soon as I reached the end -- and I did not die -- God impressed on me that there have been and will be things in life a lot harder than that. I need to do things like this zipline. Because someday, I won't be harnessed in. Someday there won't be a strongly attached cable with a definitive endpoint.
But there is God.
He's got this.
He's got me.
I need to know not just what trust feels like,
but God's faithfulness live streamed.
I need to know Him
resting on that harness,
and let Him carry me
into His wonders.