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There I stood in front of the climbing wall. You know the behemoth: a slick, black wall with colorful rubberized grips peppered across its face. The climber gets fitted with a harness and hard hat, and off he or she goes to the top to ring the bell of conquest. I tried – with my friends mostly jeering rather than cheering – but I couldn’t do it.
Climbing wasn’t the problem. I’ve got mad monkey skills and a gorilla grip. It was the height. I have a morbid case of acrophobia, and nothing makes me pop out in hives or go looking for a toilet bowl to hug like being faced with traversing an unstable structure that is more than ten feet high.
What made this incident all the more challenging were the last words of the attendant as I mounted the wall: “When you get to the top, you have to let go.” There was no climbing down (because of the tension on the safety rope), and there was no backing out. When you reached the terminus, wherever that was on the wall, the only way down was to free-fall. I got halfway up the wall and froze like a bug stuck to a windshield. The thought of letting go and falling, of trusting a 1/2 inch rope to save me, was too much for my anxious mind to overcome.
How much faith did it take to climb that wall? None. It took strength, balance, and a plan of attack; but not faith. It took faith to fall, and I didn’t have very much of that to give. As long as we can keep conquering, going, achieving, or getting better, stronger, and higher we feel like everything is okay. But what happens when our strength runs out; when all our plans for climbing higher fail? What happens when we can no longer focus? What happens when control is taken from us or when we are forced to let go? That’s when faith is required.
We have to “bet” on God by falling into the grace and infinity of what cannot be proven or explained. What most of us call faith is actually nothing more than human determination. It is confidence in our own ability, and that is nothing that resembles trust in God whatsoever. It’s only when we are ready to let go that we are ready to believe.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, blogger, pastor, and author of multiple books. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.