I experienced my first zip line recently at The Brownstone Quarry Adventure park in Portland, CT. For those of you who don't know what a zip line is; it is an aerial cable suspended on an incline. To use a zip line, a person is strapped into a harness, which is then attached with a large clip called a carbine to a pulley on the cable. The person on the zip line then steps out or off a platform or starting point into mid air and moves rapidly down the incline while suspended on the pulley. Sounds like fun, right?
Along with many activities,the Brownstone Quarry has many different zip lines. The highest and longest line is 115 feet off a sheer cliff. It is the only line which is accessible by trail. All others are accessed by climbing rock faces, rope ladders, bridges, etc. each with varying degrees of difficulty. The first zip line I tried was certainly not the highest. That came later. But, climbing up the rope bridge to get to the launching tower, made me soon realized that the bravado of my youth was just that...part of my youth.
From an extremely young age, my brother and I fearlessly climbed a tall pine tree that grew just outside our kitchen. We would climb to the very top where the branches thinned and the tree swayed. The height was never an issue. In fact it was part of the fun. Looking back it always amazed me that my mother never cautioned us about falling. She just had faith that we could do it. Her bigger concern always seemed to be the enevitble pine pitch that got all over our clothes and was nearly impossible to wash out. But oh how we loved to climb and we did it often... with great abandon.
Well, it has been a lot of years since I climbed that tree. While I'm quite comfortable climbing an extension ladder to paint or work on the roof of our home, I found myself feeling drained and curiously shaky as I climbed closer to the staging area. Before I actually reached the platform,I asked the young man waiting with the harnesses, "Why don't you have any stairs to get to these things?" He smiled and patiently answered that they didn't want to make things too easy. They wanted to challenge people. As I stepped onto the staging area, he took one look at me and said, "First time?" I confirmed what, I'm sure, was painfully obvious.
He hooked up and adjusted my harness and reaffirmed how safe the equipment was. As I looked toward the edge of the platform where I would soon step off, the safety of the harness was not on my mind. This particular zip line started by stepping off a platform and sailing out over the cliff jumpers, the adjacent lifeguard stand and some other land forms before stretching out over the water. I was beginning to think that this was not such a good idea...and it had been mine!
I knew I had to move, but at that moment, my legs seemed disconnected from my brain. I also knew that the only other way out was back down the rope bridge. I glanced back and saw my family members laughing and chatting patiently together as they waited behind me for their turn to climb up.....
Quitting has never been my style so I turned toward the platform edge, took two steps and launched myself out into the air. As I left the platform, I heard the young man behind me say, "Just remember to breath." What wisdom!
There was a brief moment of complete helplessness without anything under my feet before the pulley accepted my weight and I felt supported by the harness. It was a moment of complete surrender..... like a leap of faith! The next moment, I was sailing freely through the air! I laughed, gave a quick "thumbs up" to my family and just enjoyed the sensations of zipping through the air suspended, yet fully supported. It was fantastic! The lesson: if I had not been willing to step off that platform, I would have missed everything!
Our faith journey can be like that. Sometimes God calls us to step out of our comfort zone. He brings us to the precipice of something new and we are sometimes reluctant to move out into unfamiliar territory, into uncharted areas where we no longer feel safe and grounded; but God does not ask us to do this alone. He is asking us to take a leap of faith....with Him. That's what a leap of faith is.....stepping out into the unknown without necessarily knowing where we are going or how we will get there, but with the sure belief that we are safe in God's hands.
The next time God calls you to step out into the unknown, do not hesitate. Take that leap of faith. You can be sure that God is not only waiting at the end of the line; He will be along for the ride! Oh, and remember...... just breathe.
Faith is the substance of things hopped for. The evidence of things not seen.
For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?