My husband and I were painting the house this past weekend, which is a little easier since I really don’t have too many fears. As a matter of fact, I most likely need a good dose of fear sometimes just so that I can stay on track. Consequently, I had no problem whatsoever going up that ladder to paint the eaves on our house. It’s beautiful up there, and having grown not one fraction of an inch since I was measured in the seventh grade at a whopping five foot nothing, any time I can see up high is a real treat. I scaled that ladder like a pro, and all the while my husband was cautioning me to be careful.
Be careful? I thought. This is great!
And then I ran out of paint.
No big deal, right? I’ll just go down and fill ‘er up! I turned nonchalantly to look down, and the world started to spin. I grabbed the sides of the ladder for dear life, and I froze. I wasn’t any higher than I had been all along, but as soon as I looked down, it felt like I was on top of a hundred story building instead of a ten-foot ladder.
Just go one rung at a time, I thought. You can do this. You came up. You can go down.
I felt like smacking myself. Of course I had come up, but going down was in no way the same deal. The ground loomed at the bottom of those ten feet, and with each step I took down, I was certain I was going to fall to a horrible, disfiguring death.
I didn’t, of course. My sweet husband was waiting at the bottom, arms open to catch me if I fell, even reaching up when I still had a couple of rungs to go so that he could lift me to safety. When I looked up to the top of the ladder after getting off on the bottom, it didn’t look as high as it had seemed only seconds before. Why was going up and remaining up so wonderfully exhilarating while coming down turned me into a trembling weirdo?
There are a lot of physiological reasons for the difficulty in coming down a ladder as opposed to going up one. Center mass, vertigo, balance, etc., etc. I didn’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out that aspect of it. What did strike me, however, is the correlation between what I had just experienced and our journeys as Christians here on earth. I thought about how wonderful it is on the mountaintop with God, even how exciting it can be getting there, and then how devastatingly hard it can be to come down.
Now I’m certainly not claiming that the climb is always easy, nor am I saying that it isn’t sometimes scary. But it is exhilarating because your eyes are fixed on God. When a situation faces me and I know that I am headed for a mountaintop experience with my Father, I love the climb. I love to study and wrestle with Scripture, and I welcome opportunities for reconciliation with my brothers and sisters in the way of working things out. Even when things are going so badly in my life that I have a hard time getting out of bed, I still have a wonderful peace knowing that this light and momentary affliction is leading me toward Him.
But, and this is a big “but,” once I have that mountaintop experience with my Father and I’ve communed with Him in a deeper way than ever before, I have to go down. I have to take what I’ve learned or seen and apply it to life. I either have to share it with other women or I have to make it applicable in my own journey.
Most often, I don’t want to go down.
I turn from Him and look at my life and this world and the chaos and pain that encompasses both, and vertigo makes its appearance. I think, Can’t I stay here?
I know I can’t, and I know that while I sojourn on this planet, I must fulfill my mission here. That mission is to take my mountaintop experiences to a world that doesn’t even know how to climb the first rung of that ladder.
For goodness sakes, even Moses had to come down from Mount Sinai. I’m sure there was nothing he would have liked better than to stay up there with God and the burning bush. But there were a bunch of silly Israelites waiting at the bottom, and they definitely needed what Moses had received during his mountaintop experience.
I think there is one major difference and one major similarity between when I came down the ladder when painting my house and when I come down after a genuinely communal time with my Lord.
First, the difference: When I came down the ladder at my house, I had to look down to gain my footing. If I’d remained with my eyes on the spectacular skyline of Tucson, Arizona, I wouldn’t know when to step, and I would have surely fallen. Vertigo when going down a ladder is just what it is—vertigo. There’s no avoiding it. However, when going back down into the world after a mountaintop time with God, I can keep my eyes upward. I must do so! If we keep our eyes ever fixed on the Author of life and the Lover of our souls, descending back into this world to do His work is a joy and not a fear.
Now, the similarity: This comes in seeing both the loving embrace of my husband at the bottom of the ladder and the faithful arms of my Savior in this world. Jeff loves me. He would not let me fall, and he made sure I wouldn’t by standing at the bottom of the ladder. Likewise, God does not send me back down into the world without Him. He guides me, He holds me, and He catches me each and every time I might fall.
Just as Jesus prayed in John 17:18, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world,” He also told us in Matthew 28:20, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
So, keep climbing and don’t look down! God is waiting there, and He will meet you with more insight and revelation and beauty.
But keep looking at Him when you have to go back down! He’s with you, and He will not fail you.
This is the Great Commission, but how could we fulfill it if we didn’t keep going to Him to be filled and then take that filling to the world? The trick is keeping our eyes on God every step of the way.
And of course, be sure someone is there to catch you if you fall off the ladder while painting your house…