Terror gripped me as I stood at the base of the 20-metre pole I was expected to climb. Thick at the bottom, it narrowed to the peak where the diameter was less than the length of my foot.
For one who has panic attacks at the thought of peeking out a second-storey window, this was a big ask. Jay, my life-mastery teammate, coupled my body harness to the safety rope, gave me a reassuring pat on the shoulder and whispered, "You can master it."
I took a step and planted my foot with determination on the first climbing spike.
Why was I choosing this journey? For months I'd maintained it was a part of the life-mastery program I wouldn't and didn't need to do. What had changed? Perhaps it was the fear of failing in front of a couple of hundred fellow life-mastery participants. Maybe it was the fact that a TV camera crew stood ready and waiting to embarrass me nationwide if my courage wavered.
Those who had made the climb at another time encouraged me. "Do it Julie, you will learn so much." "What will I learn?" "We all need different lessons," came the reply. "Just do it. Have faith that you will be enlightened." Four spikes up, I wavered. The only thing I was learning was that my fear of heights was an absolute truth. Eight spikes up and the spikes were getting smaller and further apart. Faith is a bit like that, I thought. Take the first step, trust in small ways then as faith grows, cling more tightly to the Lord and take bigger steps of faith. Something to think about! I'd almost reached the top. A considerable distance from the top, the climbing spikes ceased. The challenge now was to figure out how to balance on top of the pole. This daunted me. It was impossible. And I was petrified. I have a physical disability that makes balance a challenge at the best of times. Feeling inadequate for the task, I began to rationalise. I'd achieved something, more than I thought I would, and my balance problem was a plausible excuse.
The climb wasn't wasted. I'd conquered my fear of heights and had some thoughts on faith. Surely I could just climb back down the pole. I hadn't failed. I'd achieved far more than I ever thought I would, and others would recognise this achievement.
As my foot searched for a descending spike, a member of my team yelled out, "Step up!" The next thing I knew I was on top of the pole, balancing and exhilarated.
The view was magnificent, with the coastline of the beautiful big island of Hawaii seen from a perspective that was impossible from the ground, or even part way up the pole.
This was another lesson in faith. It's impossible to do things in my own strength--by my own thinking, by my own efforts. God calls me to step up even when, from my human perspective, it appears hopeless. He doesn't ask me to think about it or work out how to do it. He simply asks me to step up--to shift my focus from what I can do, to focus on what He can and will do.
In stepping up I gain a view of God, a magnificent view of who He is and what He can do.
Four metres out from the top of the pole was a trapeze bar. The object was to leap from the pole and grasp the bar. Before the climb, I'd felt this would be a metaphor for achieving goals.
Terror struck again. What if I missed? Would this saddle me with failure? Would I be unable to set goals and attain them?
"Faith, Julie, faith," a voice whispered. Suddenly my lesson was clear. I realised I never did anything, never attempted anything unless there was a safe, foreseeable, plausible outcome. Always there had to be a certainty of what would happen, a certainty of success. This would be a leap of faith. And I could fail. I'd never seen anyone leap from the pole because I was the first climber at this seminar. But it was decision time. I leapt from the pole into midair. Then I panicked as I free fell. I was totally out of control. The safety harness gently but firmly slowed me and let me swing slowly, allowing me to gain my bearings and enjoy the view as I descended to the ground.
God asks me to take such leaps and to trust Him to take care of the journey and the outcome. He asks me to trust Him with what may seem terrifying or impossible. Sometimes it feels as if my life is out of control and I don't know what is going to happen. That's when God steps in.
Usually when I have no control, He can use me most. He's my safety harness, and when I fall into His loving, secure arms, it's a safe landing.
He's always there when I take the leap of faith. What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see. Hebrews 11:1.
Julie Anne Hokin lives in Morisset, New South Wales.
This story is used with permission from Signs Publishing Company. More of these stories can be found in these collections: Ordinary People—Extraordinary God, Ordinary People—Faithful God, and Ordinary People—Generous God