Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Hanging and Hoping

photo: Flickr/Jared Tarbell
When I was in elementary school, gym class at some point during the year included an activity I quickly grew to loathe: the rope climb. In the makeshift office area (it had once been a stage) off the gymnasium, a long, thick rope hung from the ceiling. Our class would line up in a row, and one by one, each kid had to step forward and shimmy as far up the rope as she could.

As a skinny kid with noodle arms, I didn’t have near the upper body strength to reach the top. In fact, I could hoist myself exactly zero inches up from my highest reach when dangling at the bottom. It was humiliating to hang there, the rough strands of rope burning my hands, unable to pull myself up.

I spent a good portion of my pregnancy meditating on 1 Peter 1, and at some point in the midst of memorizing, I remembered that old rope. I read “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” and pondered Jen Wilkin’s exhortation at TGCW16 to set your hope *fully* on God, not partially. I pictured not just the one rope but two giant ropes hanging from an impossible height. In my mind’s eye, the ropes don’t merely hang a couple of feet off the ground, with a kid-sized chair at the bottom; below them is a black hole of darkness.

I picture myself suspended between those two ropes. This time my assignment isn’t to claw my way to the top; all I have to do is hold on, keep from falling into the darkness. I’ve got a death grip on each one, but I’m dangling in the middle, vulnerable, precarious. My strength can’t hold out forever. The ropes burn my hands. My fingers cramp and my shoulders ache; the muscles in my arms start to quiver. This is what it is for me to hope partially (even *mostly*) in the grace of Christ and yet also not be willing to let go of other hopes.

What I can't feel or see is that one of the ropes is slowly fraying at the top--fiber after fiber breaking under the strain of my weight. It won't hold forever. If I will let go of that other rope and devote all my strength to the sure and solid one--the one anchored in the Rock that is my Savior--I can wrap my entire body around it. I can grip it with both hands, forearms pulled securely against it. I can hold it right next to my whole body, twist my legs around it, even use my feet for extra traction. If one hand gets tired, I can let go and shake it out while the rest of me holds tight. And if I grow weary and start to slip, I will not freefall into the chasm below the ropes—I will simply slide down this one rope a bit. Even if my strength should fail and I slide all the way down—there is a steadfast knot tied at the bottom, massive, firm enough to stand on. In the end, it will hold me.

2 comments:

Laurie said...

Thank you for sharing this. I need it in the season I’m in right now. So many false hopes!! And I love the visual image of struggling to hold onto Jesus plus other rope. Very good!!

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