It’s an early summer day in May. I’m high on the tops of Colorado; the sky stretching over this raggedy-edged part of the earth like saran wrap over a heaping bowl of cookie dough. I’m beat—defeated by the enormity of this land. The climb behind me was grueling; I’m deaf to all but my fast, rhythmic breathing, and I realize that I can’t turn back. If the climb thus far was this tough and dangerous, then the descent via the same path would be brutal. No, my eyes are set ahead of me—only a few more feet to the peak, and it’s there the real adventure awaits.
I put on the harness, snug the belt and double-checked the clips. The belayer fastened the single rope that is my lifeline, the only thing to tether me in my drop. He directed me to the edge of the platform. Did I mention I’m backwards, facing the cliff; my backside turned to face eternity? I listened intently to my last bit of crucial instructions, and then it came. The moment of decision to either jump into the unknown or go back to something safer (if that’s even possible now). I had to sit into the harness. As in, the harness will become a chair that dangles me over what feels like an eternity of nothingness. My legs must become horizontal; my head level with what was my footing. The bottom of the 100-foot cliff felt a mile away, but I wasn’t able to think about that. I was concentrating on the “surrender” into the belts, the rope and the belayer. After slacking a few feet down, I was ready for the vertical descent.
And I go for it … all the way … no holds barred. I find myself flying down this mountain face, the horizon stretching forever away from me, the clouds increasing their distance, the vertical rocks my road. I am lost in the thrill of the dare, in the excitement for the heights taken as a freefall into naught. It is in the pursuit and adventure so big that all I can do is surrender. The words of Aslan, the Christ-figure in C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, resound in my ears, “Do not dare not do dare.”
A few jutting boulders and a slippery bit of graveled edge formed my stopping place. It’s not the bottom of the mountain but it’s here I unleash myself from the harness. It’s here I rest for a bit from the momentum, where I look up to my journey thus far. What a ride, I hear myself say under my gasping breath. My legs, weakened by the surge of adrenaline through my body, barely give a firm stand. It’s not over, but it’s here I find the courage to be still after the dare of saying “yes” to the invitation to fly.
For a few seconds I’m thinking about the fear that had held me down from here. The fear that had kept me from taking the trail that led to the peak. Would I make it? Would I find the strength to get far enough, or would I have to back down? And once I climbed and reached the destination (that wasn’t really a destination at all), would I have the courage to let go? And if I did find the courage (I since learned it wasn’t so much about courage, but rather desperation and surrender), would the tether hold? Would I have what it took?
Mount Aspen is thick in these parts. Their stature is bold, noble. They swan dive straight into the sea of sky above. Their might is tested in the winds and the storms that rage across the landscape. But they don’t shrink back. They don’t hide in shadow and shade. Their surrender to what they were made for becomes the glory of their Creator.
And so it is in me.
Lord, if I am Your beloved,
if I am that soul,
then will You blow through me
and make me know
that as I stand on the balcony of despair,
my Lover calls from below
and promises to be there.
My groom, as I step onto the rail
and fall into the night,
will You set my eyes on You,
will You be the light
that reflects from my face
this awesome grace.
[Brian Fidler is a writer working at a ministry to the persecuted church in Bartlesville, Okla. He is slowly realizing that following Christ often means jumping into the wild unknown.]