(A little side note: This is a true story that God brought to my mind last night just as I was about to fall asleep. I’m not sure why He wanted me to share it now, in the middle of the summer a year and a half after it happened . . . but I trust that He has a good reason! My prayer is that someone out there who needs to hear this story will read it, and that it will touch them in a special way directly from our Lord. 🙂
“I found another one Mom!”, Madeline said as she scooped up another plastic necklace out of the snow. Someone must have dropped the necklaces months ago. We had been hiking for hours, up a steep mountain slope underneath one of the ski lifts in Breckenridge, Colorado. Most of the ground carried only a thin layer of snow so late in the spring, but we were surprised to find drifts three feet deep in some places as we walked. It didn’t seem possible that the sky could be any bluer, the sun blazed warm and bold on our faces, and the snow almost blinded us through our sunglasses. We were hiking at about 10,000 feet and could feel the thin air in our lungs. It had been an amazing day full of fun and adventure for our family of five. The alpine mountain views took our breath away! A close friend had given us her beautiful timeshare for a week, friends and neighbors were taking good care of Grandma Lois in our home, and we were enjoying a break from all of life’s responsibilities.
I had been struggling with an old injury for quite some time, and this steep terrain was beginning to cause pain in my heels. I tried to let it go as I distracted myself with a deep conversation with my son, Christopher, who had chosen this time to ask some very difficult questions about God, and why He allows terrible things to happen to people. We talked and shared questions for about half an hour before we caught up to his sisters and my husband, David. My ears perked up at the sound of a river that must be close by . . . and I was not disappointed when we finally came upon it.
My eyes were wide as I watched the ice cold snowmelt rushing in torrents down the steep mountainside. The river was lined with broken branches and downed logs, and was full of rocks of all sizes, some jutting out and causing white foaming water to spray out in all directions. The sound of thunder surprised us, and we looked up at the sky that was quickly changing from one of pure sunshine to one of dark, ominous clouds. A high altitude, mountain storm was coming, and we knew that we needed to get out of the way – and fast. Before I knew it my husband, David, was encouraging the kids to navigate rocks and a couple of logs to get across the river. I held my breath and watched them, but it took only a few minutes before they were on the other side, jumping with their arms held high in victory. There was thunder again, the temperature was dropping, and it started to sprinkle. “Come on, Mom! You can do it!” my kids yelled over the deafening sound of the raging river.
I wanted to . . . I really did . . . but I just couldn’t. I was completely frozen, paralyzed by fear. I knew in my mind that I needed to get to the other side of the river before the storm hit, that I needed to be with my family, and that choosing not to cross at this time would mean hiking hours back down the mountain by myself. If only that log hadn’t been covered in snow . . . but it was – at least 3 inches of icy, cracked, slippery snow. What felt like an electrical surge of fear pulsed through my body. My heels hurt, my legs were shaking, and my heart was beating like a drum as I started across the first log. I gasped as my foot slipped and my right leg plunged half way into the icy water, stopped only by an unseen broken branch. The water rushed and raged around me as I frantically looked around for another way to get over to the other side, but there just wasn’t one. I just couldn’t go on. “Oh, Jesus help me!” I cried out, my voice blocked out by the sound of thunder and rushing water.
The kids were all sitting down under a tree by now, obviously wondering if I was going to be able to join them or not. They looked nervous. David crossed back over the stream, placed his feet in a more stable position that caused him to sacrifice his warm, dry feet, and held out his hand. “Come on, Christina, let’s do this together. Take my hand. Follow my lead – just step exactly where I step. You can do this.”
When I think back on that crazy, spring day I realize that God was teaching me something very important about trust. What is trust? Dictionary definitions say that trust is the reliance on the integrity, strength, ability and surety of a person . . . the confident expectation of something . . . hope. How many times in my life have I been confronted with situations that have caused me to feel completely paralyzed by fear? These are times when I feel like I just can’t move, I just can’t go on, answers are impossible to find, there is no end in sight. During these times it is hard for me to have any kind of perspective, and I am totally consumed by the situation at hand. Many of us on this Thin Within journey have felt this very fear as God gently beckons us away from a dependence on food and emotional eating and into a deeper relationship with Him. So, what do we do? We cry out to our Lord and Savior, just like I cried out that day at the river. We stand on one side of the slippery log, unable to move or see a way for our future. Christ stands on the other side, holding out His hand to guide us, then He takes steps to meet us exactly where we are and asks us to follow Him. He has already been to the other side of the river! He has the strength, the skills, the perspective to know that we can get there with Him, whether we know it or not. What is our part in all of this? Trust. We have to trust that God will do what He says he will, that He loves us the way He says He does. Oh yes, and one more thing . . . a step in His direction.
Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Psalm 13:5 “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.”
Psalm 37:23-24 “The steps of a man (woman) are established by the Lord, and He delights in her way. When she falls, she will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds her hand.”
I looked at David and pleaded with my eyes to please not make me cross this log. He looked at me, knew what I was thinking and stepped even closer to me. The kids were quiet now, watching. I mustered up as much trust as I could (which was just a little bit at first) and started across in baby steps, holding my husband’s hand and following his steps as exactly as I could. I slipped again but he caught me and I did not go in the water. I must have held my breath for the full minute that it took to get me across, but somehow we made it and I have never been so relieved! All three of my kids jumped up and cheered. I smiled and sat down with the family under a large pine tree that worked well as an umbrella against the storm, still shaky for the next half hour or so. Later, when the storm had passed and we were all happily hiking down the mountain again I gave David a good squeeze and thanked him for helping me across, for not getting frustrated with me or giving up on me. He was a perfect example of Christ to me that day. He smiled, squeezed me back and simply said “Christina, I love you.”
Psalm 28:7 “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.”
Isaiah 12:2 “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.”
Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
How about you? Have you been paralyzed with fear in your life? Do you struggle with trusting God in certain situations that seem hopeless or impossible? Do you sense that God might be reaching His hand out to you, gently asking you to trust Him with something? He loves you so much. What is He whispering to your heart today?