Last night, with a sunset in front of me and a mountain to my back, I set off on an adventure that the Big Man assured me would be exhilarating.
We're guests at a lovely resort in Northern Michigan, courtesy of the Big Man's employer. As we schmoozed with financial types on the patio, enjoying the free drinks at a reception, my dear husband decided it was time to escape the titillating conversation by making me an offer I REALLY wanted to refuse.
He offered to join me on a ride up and down the ski slopes.
Sounds like fun, you say? Who wouldn't enjoy a jaunt up and down such a scenic hill on such a pleasant summer evening? Who wouldn't want to see the expansive view encompassing three counties? Who wouldn't want to risk her very life, riding up a steep mountain, feet dangling yards above the earth, with only a lightweight bar in her lap and NO SEAT BELT?
Did I mention that I'm just a little scared of heights?
OK, that's an understatement. I'm TERRIFIED of heights. My husband's offer did not make me feel exhilarated. It made my palms sweat. It made me slightly naseous.
The Big Man assured me I would feel better if I worked on conquering my fear. He told me he would keep his arm around me the whole time, and he promised me he would not tease me or threaten to remove the bar.
Trusting my husband, I swallowed the wine remaining in my glass and said, "Yes, dear. I would love to accompany you on a chair lift ride. Sounds like fun!"
That's not at all what I said, not even close, but I did it. I rode up and down the mountain, and I lived to tell about it.
But I'm not exhilarated, and I'm a little sad.
Why am I so afraid? My rational brain kept telling me all the truths about the situation. I knew that the cable was sturdy. I knew that hundreds of people, including small children, rode this thing without fear all the time. I knew that I would not fall. But still I was afraid.
Could it be that I'm not really afraid of heights, but of something else? I don't have the time, money or inclination to spend years on the therapist's couch with this one, and I imagine that might be what it would take to help me unearth and conquer the fear. So we talked a bit about it, and I tried to let it go. So I'm afraid of heights, so what. Everybody's afraid of something, right?
This morning I woke up thinking about the experience and had something of an epiphany. I realized that it was not just being in a high place that made me feel uneasy. I was filled with anxiety for a much more basic reason: I had no control of the situation.
I'm a bit of a "type A" gal at heart. I am a hardworking perfectionist. I like things done well. (That is, done by me, of course.) I am also a "rule follower," obedient and loyal. When I can't follow the rules, I tend to walk away. Ever wonder why I home school my children? That's one of the reasons. I just didn't want to "jump through the hoops" so I brought the young 'uns home where I could do things my way.
Like everyone else on the planet, the truth is there are many things over which I have no control, but I live with the comfortable illusion that I am the master of my world. But when I am faced with situations that blantantly challenge this illusion -- like my little trip up the mountain -- I'm filled with anxiety.
If leaves me wondering what I might've done if it had been me instead of Peter called out for that little walk on the water. Talk about having no control! Old Pete, a regular type A guy himself, convinced himself for a moment that he really trusted Jesus, and that of course he could walk on water. Everything was fine until the wind kicked up. Then Peter forgot his intention to trust his friend, and down he went.
The sad truth is that often I have much less faith than Peter did. I don't even start to trust Jesus as I should. I'm not talking about my adventure on the slopes, although it wouldn't have hurt to trust that Jesus probably wasn't going to allow me to fall to my death. I'm referring to those opportunities I get every day to trust God with my life.
I need to work on letting go of this illusion of control. Feeling so anxious last night made me realize something about myself. I'll never feel safe and at peace in this world if I continue to feed the illusion of control. I must accept the fact that much of life is simply out of my hands.
But it's in God's hands, and that's where my fears, and everything else, belong. I'm still scared of heights. But next time I'm in a high place (tonight, in fact, when I take another trip up that mountain) I'll remind myself that no, I'm not in control. But Someone infinitely smarter, greater, stronger and more powerful is.