Friday, October 14, 2011

Sure Footing in the Lord

Psalm 17:5
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
Jeremiah 38-14-28
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Matthew 11:1-6


  1. Hi Martha:
    For some reason, the poem Footprints in the Sand:

    hit me in the head when reading the quote in your blog today. Sometimes it's good to step outside our comfort zones. Glad you did and I imagine now looking back on the experience you are too.

  2. Hi, Chris!
    Thanks so much for stopping by today!
    So glad to hear you were reminded of "Footprints in the Sand"; such a lovely and meaningful poem.

    I am glad I was able to step out of my comfort zone this day, thanks to the Lord, as we had a marvelous time. Still doesn't take the fear totally away, but that's another story for another day. :)


  3. Martha I can totally relate to this. I am also afraid of heights. And I trekked to a height of 14,500 ft last summer..on a icy mountain. My joints were numb with pain because I was rigid with fear and yet I completed my trek. But, did this make me get over my fear....NO. I am glad that I did not decide to quit when I wanted to. I did surprise myself. Nice post as always.

  4. One thing I have learned in this life is that God will allow us to face our fears. Fear is an opposite of faith. When we fear, it is only because faith has left the scene. Now there are good reasons to fear, on occasion. But many fears are in the heart only. God has a way of having us live out those fears. In so doing, as your experience teaches us, God can use these times to build our faith.

    Funny, in home building, I really hate it when someone has a certain deep fear of some aspect of the job. That is because I have experienced that they will likely be given the chance to live out that fear. That only means that their trusty home builder gets to live it out with them. Hey, I don't need any more of that kind of faith, God! But this goes to show that acts of fear affect not only the fearful, but also those with whom the fearful come in contact.

  5. Here's an example of how one's ungrounded fears can play out to affect others. Several years ago, we contracted to build a home for a guy who expressed inordinate fear of a wet basement. I assured him that we knew what we were doing, that proper methods and building principles were at work here and that he did not have to concern himself with that. But his fears did not subside.

    Every time I would see Randy, he would ask me about moisture in the basement. I showed him all of the proper things we were doing that would prevent any kind of a moisture problem.

    We finished the house without incident and Randy moved in.

    Soon thereafter we entered into some of the wettest weather I have ever experienced. Hurricane Opal came up from the gulf, and after flooding all of south GA, she set up over us for what seemed like weeks. It WAS weeks.

    During that time, springs started coming up in Randy's yard. The water table had risen to the point that his basement slab was below the water table! This was not normal and not recorded on any plats that the water table could get this high. Moisture had no place to go. It started bleeding up the walls of his basement. Mold started to grow. One day, while Randy was in the basement, tremblng, pressure against the bottom of his slab caused the slab to crack all the way through, making a horrific sound, which really freaked him out.

    Continual pelting of rain from the east eventually saturated his brick, the osmotic pressure then pushing the water into the house and showing up inside, dampening the very carpet of the upstairs bedrooms. Everyone in the home started coughing due to airborne mold spores. We ended up having to remove the entire brick off of his house and placing a house wrap, which was new at the time, to seal it up from water intrusion.

    Randy's yard never would dry up, so we had to install a French drain system all through it just to get it to dry enough to grow grass.

    Eventually, Opal went away. So all seemed to be going well...until one day. Randy was in his basement office when he heard a loud burst followed by the sound of water rushing through the pipes. He could hear major amounts of water slapping against the basement concrete outside of his office. He ran outside and the water main line coming though the basement wall had burst! As it turns out, the plumber had failed to solder a fitting. All that had been holding the water main together, for those several months, was friction! Randy ended up with a completely flooded basement, the very fear he had expressed when I first met him.

    Now these things had never happened before, and have not happened since. So I attribute all of this bad experience, of course, as Randy's fault! The proof is sufficient! Randy had to live out his worst fears. It just so happened that we had to live them out with him. We were just collateral damage!

    Well, that's my side of it anyway.

    Thanks for telling us your experience, Martha. Your post brought back some very meaningful, albeit unpleasant, but now humorous memories.

  6. Martha I sooo understand where you are coming from. I have many phobias and heights ,bridges over water,traffic are just a few.I also know that when push comes to shove, I too have said a prayer and done what I had to do,repeating my prayer the whole time. God is always there to hold my hand and I thank him when I'm through,but I wish I could learn to just trust him to be there before I get so stressed about going. I know he will be there, but letting go is always a fight.We really have to let go and let God! thanks for a great story...Gina

  7. Ah yes, I remember that trip and the two additional bridges that followed. By the end of the day, your trust in God and yourself had strengthened. And later you stood on a log bridge solo, saying that it wasn't that bad.

  8. Fear...I met it when I had to leave Indonesia with my two kids... The state was in turmoil and leaving the country was my priority... Those hours turned me into a person I never knew existed...

  9. ugh...heights and worse still, narrow heights. I once realized how fear can cause one to lose bodily functions. (It didn't happen to me, but I definitely felt my fear there)ugh.
    But, I always tell myself, "He did not give us the spirit of fear, but of love and of joy and of a sound mind."
    To face our fears like you did, and to conquer like you did, having put your faith in the One Who saw you through...well? Praise be to God.
    Glad you give Him the glory. Victoria Jenkins

  10. Wow, everyone, I am overwhelmed by your many thoughtful comments here. It seems I'm not alone when it comes to fear of heights in narrow places!

    Thanks for sharing your own experiences with your fears here. I hope it helps others to turn their fears over to God and trust in Him!

    Blessings to all!!!

  11. I could definitely relate to this heights have never been a friend of mine! I sympathized with you over your scenerio and give you credit for passing over that bridge! May we all look to God, who will keep our feet from stumbling. A beautiful prayer at the end.

  12. Thank you, Jessica!
    Boy, there sure are a lot of us out there with a fear of heights in some way, shape or form.
    So glad you liked the prayer - means so much! :)

    Blessings, my dear!

  13. my eyes welled up with tears as i read your story, martha. sweet & powerful. i love your husband's comment ;-)

    what fears am i facing, you ask ...

    i'm afraid of not having all the answers, i guess. i'm not sure i really know what a great job, or a great family, or a great relationship looks like and i find myself questioning my current state of affairs. it's an ongoing, lifelong process. it is not a debilitating fear. but, it's probably my greatest (irrational) fear.

    yes. i definitely call on God to help figure this all out!!!

  14. Martha - This is one of your most touching posts to date. As some one who has a fear of heights, I can absolutely identify with your feelings. I love the way your husband urged you on too. But most of all I love your reflection on this..


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