Sunday, April 29, 2007
Cyclical Lessons ...
Sometimes we find ourselves learning lessons we thought we had mastered. In those times we often grow discouraged, feeling we have learnt nothing and grown little. Learning is not a one-time event. Life’s curriculum is cyclical. This means we revisit skills and lessons. Revisiting does not mean we have not mastered the initial lesson. In revisiting, we review the skills and then develop and extend them. As a teacher, I do this with my students all the time. Firstly, we build a foundation and then, we revisit and revisit again. If no foundation is laid, how can we develop and extend our students? The picture I see is that of an upward spiral. We need not fear we are going around and around the same mountain and beat ourselves up over it. Rather, see it as an upward journey. Sure we come around the same way multiple times, but each time we climb higher.
One of the life lessons that I seem to revisit again and again is that of trust. I blogged about it a while back. Over the past few weeks I have been thinking that abseiling is an excellent illustration of trust. (For the North Americans out there, abseiling = repelling!)
Throughout my life, I have had several opportunities to abseil. The first time I did it, I was belayed off a very high, disused railway bridge as part of a team activity in trust! It was scary dangling in the middle of space, spinning and twirling at the end of a rope with nothing to put your feet against and no control. I was determined not to show my fear and I must have done a good job. Suddenly the rope took off and I was plunged down a sharp drop at a rapid rate of knots until coming to a sudden stop again. This was only a few seconds but it was disconcerting to say the least! I heard shrieks of laughter up on the bridge and was asked if I was all right. I replied that I was and asked what happened. The girl belaying me laughed and said that as I was not showing fear she thought I needed an extra challenge and wanted to see if I would yell out. I was not very impressed (and no, I didn’t yell out). Her actions illustrate a point I will come back to later.
Lesson One. Commitment.
Trust and commitment go hand in hand. It is impossible to trust if you don’t commit. The hardest stage of abseiling is the initial stage of leaning back into empty space and committing yourself to your harness and rope. It’s a scary thing to leave the security of the cliff and lean out into the unknown with nothing solid under you. If you commit half heartedly, you scrape yourself up! Trusting God is like this. To trust fully, we have to completely give ourselves over to him – our lifeline. It is next to impossible to commit yourself without trust.
Lesson Two. Trustworthiness.
Ensure you place your trust in something trustworthy. Abseilers go over every inch of rope and check their equipment thoroughly. They look for wear and tear and anything that would prove the equipment untrustworthy. They don’t do this for fun. They do it because they know it can mean the difference between serious injury or even life and death.
The girl belaying me when I abseiled was untrustworthy. When I was counting on her, she breached my trust. Would I trust her again in a similar exercise? Probably not! However, this is not atypical of us as humans, sooner or later we blow it. We are human. We are fallible. The challenge is how do we rebuild trust when it has been shattered? (That’s another blog in itself!)
God has always proven himself trustworthy. When life takes me over the edge and my feet dangle in space, when I am out of control and paralysed by fear, I know that he is my lifeline. He has proven himself sure and he never lets me fall. The joy in abseiling is repelling off the cliff and soaring through the air. In this place between the cliff and the ground I find freedom. For a few seconds of each jump, I am free to fly. My senses are alive and I find freedom that is not available while staying in the comfort zone at the top of the cliff. I go to new places and levels that would be unavailable on foot. God loves us too much to leave us in our comfort zones … he wants us to fly! Will you trust him as your lifeline?