My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death have fallen on me.
Fear and trembling have beset me;
horror has overwhelmed me.
I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest.
I would flee far away
and stay in the desert;
I would hurry to my place of shelter,
far from the tempest and storm.”
- Psalm 55:4-8
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
- 1 John 4:18
Yesterday, I mentioned an old memory from our biggest vacation that we ever took as a family, a three-week trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. And the entire trip was compensation for all the overtime I had worked earlier that year, not spending a day of my earned “vacation.” Our trip started in South Carolina, near Augusta, Georgia. We visited my folks for a day in Mississippi and then we stayed a few days in Port Arthur, Texas with my wife’s mother. Then we went to El Paso, Texas where my wife spent most of her elementary and high school years, slipping over the border into Mexico. We visited Carlsbad Caverns and Capulin Volcano National Monument and Taos, New Mexico before going to the camp for adult leader training for us and daily wild adventures for the boys, designed for their age groups (7 and 10).
On the way home, we visited Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado, Arches National Park, Utah, and the Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction, Colorado before a short visit with my uncle in Denver, Colorado and then the mad dash back home to the east coast. Okay, we stopped in Dodge City, Kansas, just to stop in Dodge City. You know, for the atmosphere, and in the summer it was a very “ripe” atmosphere, with the cattle gathered for the next train to the slaughterhouse.
I might have forgotten the return trip if it were not for my younger son bringing it up a few months ago. As usual, my son blames me for his troubles.
I had always wanted to go to all the USA national parks, missing most of them, but Mesa Verde had especially intrigued me. Having no idea how the park was laid out, we went. You drive up the mountain and enter the park from the north on a circular drive around the top of the mesa. At the southern end, you park and walk down some stairs to the cave dwellings. You get various means of “guides” with signs, videos, and real people to answer questions. But then you get to the far side of the dwelling and you must ascend. Mostly, it is a trail going up, but at one point, there is only a short ladder, maybe ten feet up a sheer rock wall. To make it look authentic, the ladder had been made out of logs that were lashed together, but the leather lashings barely covered the bolts that firmly attached the ladder to the cliff.
My younger son said that he could not do it. The nearby ranger said there was no other way. Walking against the crowd would put more people in danger while ascending at the entrance.
So, I carefully guided my son and told him where to place each hand and each foot. I talked him through each movement of a hand or foot and told him to just look straight ahead at the rock. He would only feel for the next rung, never looking, especially when looking at the rung to step on. One foot, then one hand, then the other foot, and so on. He made it with no problem.
To be honest, I had forgotten the entire incident until last Christmas when his mother brought up something which sparked the memory and our younger son talked about how the trip to Mesa Verde had “given” him his fear of heights. Of course, since I had wanted to go to Mesa Verde, his fear of heights was all my fault.
It is almost a debilitating fear. Four years ago, he was taking his turn driving from Texas to northern Mississippi, and we got to the bridge over the Mississippi River, from Plaquemine, Louisiana to Baton Rouge. He muttered that he was not going to make it, but once you are on the bridge, there was no stopping to change drivers. He said it was his fear of heights. I calmly said that he was driving on a ROAD. “Do not look at anything other than the pavement and the truck’s taillights right in front of you.” There was a lot of sweat and tears, but he made it.
Then he reminded me of Mesa Verde three months ago.
It is quite interesting hearing about how I had made him do this and that and he developed this morbid fear as a result, but in his telling of the story, he missed one thing that I did not even mention in my telling of the story above. He was seven-years old. I was thirty-four years old. There was enough difference in our size for me to ascend the ladder at the same time that he ascended. He was on different rungs of the ladder the entire time, looking at the rock wall. But I was hovering over him, holding the rungs of the ladder above him and standing on the rungs of the ladder beneath him. I shielded his body so that he was not going to fall, able to take one arm and cradle him if necessary.
But here 35 years later, my son sees nothing other than the sheer drop to the canyon floor, hundreds or thousands of feet below. In truth, he would have landed ten feet below onto the trail, but that is not as he saw it.
But I would have cradled him if he started to fall.
It causes me to think of all the times I have been in fear, like seeing the animal’s eyes looking back at me in yesterday’s tale, armed with a mighty flashlight. But in truth, there have been many other times. And how do we express it when we tell the story? “I was there, all alone, facing my fears, armed with only my wits…”
Yep, God, our loving Father hovers over us, ready to cradle us in His arms if we just slightly stumble…
And we never notice.
We tend to not remember that part of the story.
We must always remember that God loves us. We are never alone.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.