A number of years ago I accompanied a group of children on a school trip to an outdoor activity centre. Most of the time there was only enough space for the kids to actually participate and so the adults stayed nearby and watched. Thus when we came to the abseiling tower I settled myself and my fear of heights on the grass at the bottom, merrily encouraging the little ones who were scared to give it a go, safe in the knowledge that I wouldn’t have to take my own advice. Then Rich the instructor appeared and informed us that on this activity there was plenty of opportunity for everyone take a turn and invited me to join in. Small smiling faces turned toward me expectantly.
The climb up the tower was hard enough and so on reaching the top my face told Rich that I wasn’t kidding when I revealed how scared I was. He clipped me in and then demonstrated just how secure I was.
“I’ve got you. You’re not going to fall” he assured me.
I believed him.
Somehow I got over the edge and began my descent. Although the instruction I’d been given was to let the rope slide through my hands, allowing my arm position to act as my brake, everything about that sensation felt counterintuitive. I kept grabbing the rope, despite the encouraging words being called down to me and the calm, reassuring face of my instructor above. Fear took over until eventually it had me in a bind. My arm was completely out of position and no longer able to do what it needed to do.
“Ok,” Rich called down to me “there’s only one thing you can do now. Let go of the rope completely.”
Although that seemed ridiculous, I also knew that I was safe, and so I let go of what I was trying to control and for a moment simply hung in mid-air half way down the wall, letting the expert take over. At that point I couldn’t have gotten myself down even if I’d wanted to. My descent was now entirely in someone else’s hands. Slowly and patiently he got me going again until I reached the bottom.
That experience was probably about twenty years ago but it came back to me yesterday in the midst of what is a strange season of unexpected hanging in between places. A number of weeks ago, after I knew I had to let go of the rope, everything within me wanted to rebel. Oh I knew I’d be safe, knew that I was held fast, but holding the rope gave me some illusion of control – but that control was doing me no good. One by one my fingers were prized away but each time I took it back until eventually I learned to stop trying and just let the instructor lead.
At first, dangling in the in between place is deeply uncomfortable, but as I’ve let go of Being In Charge I’ve experienced a release, a freedom, and a sense of stillness. I’m not sure how long I’ll be here and I do keep having to resist the temptation to take back control and make things happen, but something of the peace of this place stops me and reminds me that all I have to do is look up and trust. At the right time and at the right pace he will get me moving again and until then I simply have to stop striving and trust the one who holds me.
(Photo credit – Brook Anderson on Unsplash)