My steps have held to your paths;
my feet have not stumbled.
I have a debilitating fear of heights in narrow places. You will never find me traversing a swinging rope bridge, standing at the edge of a cliff, or gazing around gleefully when riding a glass elevator. Just contemplating these situations makes my stomach churn and my palms sweat. So, imagine my horror and dismay when I was confronted on a hiking trail by a narrow, log bridge with a rickety handrail over which I would have to cross if I wished to move forward.
It was early April 2005. Danny and I had just gotten married and were enjoying our honeymoon near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In his younger days, Danny had backpacked all over the Smokys, logging about 300 miles over many years. He was anxious and excited to share some of those places he had hiked with me and I was just as eager to see them.
The first hike we headed for was the Alum Cave Trail. It was a brilliantly sunny day, yet the chill of early spring lingered in the air. Burdened only by a knapsack and a soft-sided, insulated lunch cooler, we were primed to explore the trail and savor the beauty of God's natural wonders surrounding us.
We were happily strolling along when, unexpectedly, terrifyingly, spanning a stream too wide to circumvent, there it was - the log bridge! I stood as if nailed to the spot. Danny, who was walking ahead of me, turned to see where I was. His expression was one of bewildered concern.
"What's the matter?" He asked.
"I can't do it," I replied, my voice unsteady.
"Can't do what?" He was striding back toward me.
I pointed at the bridge, my throat already choked by the tears welling up within.
"Cross the bridge?" Danny inquired. "Yes, you can. I'll help you."
Now the tears flowed in earnest. My legs were shaking so, I didn't think I could stand a second longer. Danny put his arm around me and gently led me away from the trail to a place where we could sit down and I could, hopefully, calm down.
Patiently, he let me have my cry and listened with empathy to all my reasons for being panicked by the prospect of negotiating that bridge. If my fears confessed sounded irrational to him, Danny certainly didn't let on, but I could see the disappointment in his eyes as he thought we might have to turn back and not finish the trail he so desired me to see. As petrified as I was, the last thing I wanted was to let him down. I knew that, somehow, I had to go through with it. I had to face my demons.
We decided that Danny would cross first with all our possessions, then return to cross with me. Poised, but not composed, with one tentative foot on the log bridge and two white-knuckled hands clutching the rail, I knew the one thing I could not, should not do was look down at the rushing stream below. The boiling, gurgling water made me feel dizzy and light-headed.
"Are you ready?" Danny asked with a cheerfulness that sounded a bit to forced.
I nodded bravely, but I knew I wasn't. I needed Danny beside me for support, to cheer me on, but I needed something else, too, something more. I needed God.
As I took the first step onto the bridge, I prayed silently, fervently, desperately, "Father in Heaven, please don't let me panic! Don't let my feet slip; keep me moving. Don't let my feet slip, don't let my feet slip, don't let my feet slip . . ."
In moments which felt more like an eternity, my feet touched the comforting ground on the other side of the stream. I let out the breath I had been holding all that time with tremendous relief. Danny was beaming.
"See? You did it! That wasn't so bad, now, was it?"
Bad enough, I thought, but managed a weak smile and a "thanks be to God" for all He had just enabled me to do. He had kept my feet on the right path; He did not allow me to stumble or fall. While I did not relish the idea of having to cross the bridge again on our way back, I knew now, with His help, that I could.
What fears are you facing? Are you asking God for help in confronting them, over coming them?
Will you pray with me? Father, keep our feet from stumbling along the path you have set for us. Help us to move forward even when our fears hold us back. Steady us in the knowledge that You hold us in the palm of Your hand and will catch us if we fall. Thank you, Lord, for your faithful love. Amen.
Psalms 16, 17 or 22
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
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