By Leah Fuller
I often find myself challenged by the very concepts and questions we instructors ask participants. On a recent expedition, two participants gave evidence to prove they were at the correct destination. Despite obvious evidence in several directions, one or two directions had seemed a little less clear. As the two completed their proof, I nodded and asked them, “Are you satisfied that you are at the destination?” The women looked at each other with uncertainty and after a thoughtful moment replied, “Well, we would feel more secure if you would just affirm that we are in the right place.”
How often have I longed for or even sought out affirmation from another in order to gain some form of security for myself? And often I think I need the affirmation because I do not trust that which I know to be true. When it comes to love, words allow me to communicate love to others, and words are a way I desire to receive love from others. Living with our own deep fear of inadequacy, we can start thinking that we need another’s words to confirm our identity or our worth.
I often find myself thinking that God’s silence pronounces a condemnation or judgment of me. I’m not doing enough to please Him, so He is withholding Himself. Let’s face it, I think that about others, too. If I go for a few days without connecting with a good friend, I think she must be upset with me or doesn’t want to be around me anymore. I’ve seen it create insecurity for couples in a new dating relationship. Lack of communication or contact can create fear that maybe the other person has become disinterested or doesn’t care anymore. We can experience silence or lack of communication as rejection.
What if God’s love went beyond words? What if I was secure enough in God’s love for me to know that He is with me even when I cannot hear Him? What if God’s silence is not a condemnation of me, but is instead a communication of His trust in my love? David Benner in his book Opening to God puts it this way: “Intimacy demands that talk be balanced by attentive openness in silence, and only as this happens do we begin to know the deeper communion of shared presence that no longer depends on words.” As we grow in our relationships with God and others, we can learn to trust. We find that love is less about what we do or say and more about who God is and whom He says we are. That lack of communication or contact that once led to insecurity can lead us to the only One who can fully satisfy.
I desire to grow in trusting that being with God is enough. He loves me, period. He doesn’t need to keep saying it for me to trust and know I am fully loved and that His love for me won’t change. 1 John 3:18-20 says it this way: “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything.” (NIV)
If you find yourself struggling to trust that God’s love for you is enough, consider praying the following prayer. I have found it to be helpful for me on this journey.
Jesus, may I know Your love in the depths of my heart. May I trust in truth that I am Your child and I do not need to say or do anything to gain or earn your acceptance and love. Help me to learn to walk in the security of simply being in Your loving presence that is beyond words. And may Your loving presence overflow into my love for others as I learn to love not with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.
By Joel Bates
I nearly dropped a man to his death the other day. It would have been a close call except that he was harnessed to a rope and I was on belay. I was instructing a high, group initiative. The participant hung upside down from a suspended tire, and I stood beneath him, my hand on the brake. The other members of his group were responsible to hoist him to the upper platform 25’ off the ground. However, his large size and humorous, flailing antics—coupled with the fact that his two daughters were in the group—resulted in the team losing focus at a crucial juncture. I watched him struggling and noted the situation turning from comical to critical for him. Everyone was laughing except him and me. Perilously hanging upside down, his face redden as blood surged to his downcast head, and I remained on belay. When he could not hold on any longer, he suddenly came plummeting toward earth. His belay rope stretched, and I jolted upward, creating a colossal, mid-air collision that rattled my bones.
We found ourselves swinging about four feet off the ground. He hovered there in a prone position with arms outstretched like a limp corpse, held aloft only by that slender belay rope attached to his harness. He slowly lifted his head, cocked it in a sideways glance at me, and smiled a toothy grin. “You didn’t let me fall!” he giggled.
My body ached from the contact. My jaw was sore from colliding with his helmet. I had a scrape on my leg where one of his flailing limbs had strafed it. Looking down at my right hand, I saw a white-knuckle death grip on the rope that was connected to my braking device. Breathless and sober, I responded, “No, I didn’t let you fall.”
You see, two hours earlier, I had explained to the group how we take every precaution to ensure that they won’t fall to the ground during this activity. I had told them how much weight the equipment could hold, detailed how the braking system worked, and quizzed them on the climber’s contract, emphasizing the part where I say, “Belay is ON!”
At this point in the instructions, I had paused for an aside to explain how committed I would be in the role of belayer. The belayer controls the brake and descent of the climber if he falls or needs to descend. The belayer provides the last line of defense against a traumatic, high-angle tragedy occurring. It is true that some belayers get distracted. Some belayers get lazy. Some belayers get hurt or wounded and end up letting go of the rope. However, I promised them with all seriousness that I never would let go. “Even if some crazy gunman comes crashing out of the woods and shoots me, I won’t let go of this rope that is your lifeline!” I promised. And I meant it. In times past, I had proven my word when I was belaying a buddy who, while climbing 30’ above me, inadvertently kicked loose a golf-ball-size rock. Even after it hit me right in the forehead with star-struck force, I didn’t let go of the rope. Then there was the time I had been at the climb site, standing “on belay” for hours in the 100o degree heat as student after student climbed, but I didn’t let go of the rope.
A few days after our mid-air escapade, I was sitting with a friend at a Bible study, pondering social trends, the void of reason therein, and the spiritual impacts on our culture. I have heard about one famous Christian after another renouncing his or her faith. I’ve seen longtime brothers and sisters in Christ compromise their faith at the core. I’ve stood by as the tide of postmodernism and whatever comes after that has washed over our society and the church with its pervasive waves of pernicious lies, stealing away our truth. I recently even had a friend tell me he is a Christian, but he doesn’t really believe that the Bible is relevant anymore.
As I was expressing my consternation in our Bible study, I suddenly remembered myself standing in front of that group of participants the other day and telling them about the commitment I would make to them to stay “on belay.” I suddenly saw not a rope in my hand, but a Bible, and the question hit me like a meteor, “Will I be as committed to hold onto His WORD as I am to hold the belay rope?” Will I stand and grasp my Bible when there are all manner of distractions about me? Will I keep these Holy Scriptures before me even when the days grown long and dry and my strength of heart is failing? Will I hold this powerful Word of God in my hands when it hurts, when I’m injured for it, or when I’m under the gun of oppression? Yes, I will! I must for it is not only my life on the line, but the lives of those for whom I have committed to be on spiritual belay. I won’t drop it! I will stay “On Belay!”
So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. 2Thessalonians 2:15 (ESV)
For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper that any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)
By Leah Fuller
A gunshot echoed across the hills as the other enthusiastic hikers and I started our trek in the BLAST! Hike-a-thon. BLAST! is a 24-hour, hiking fundraiser where endurance, challenge, and camaraderie join together to raise money for Discovery Ministries. I have logged many miles on this trail over the years. I might even consider myself a veteran of the hike-a-thon, a seasoned trekker with an understanding of endurance hiking.
As I prepared for BLAST!, I decided to invite a younger hiker to join me on my quest to hike 50+ miles. That’s how Emma and I became hiking buddies. Emma, who had been hiking in the 24-hour event since she was 6 years old, was now 14 and had not yet reached the goal of hiking 50 miles. When I invited her to take up the challenge, she didn’t really hesitate, simply shrugged her shoulders and said, “Sure, I’ll hike with you.” I was feeling good about this decision and started patting myself on the back for continuing to take up the mantle of challenging the next generation to do hard things. But a few weeks prior to the event, my mindset began to shift. What if in Emma’s youth she actually challenged me? Instead of my setting the pace for her, would she take the lead? I’ve been setting pace for other hikers for many years, but could I actually keep up with her youthful vigor?
It took only the first few miles to see that my fears were valid. Emma set a pace that I could barely match, and not once did her resolve, enthusiasm, or determination waver. Mile after mile we hiked, and as the day wore on, my aching muscles caused me to start lagging behind. Emma and I were still hiking “together,” but she stayed a few paces ahead of me. At times, I would jog to catch up with her, and not once did she give the appearance of fatigue or struggle. I would joke that the fountain of youth was on her side, and she would groan, assuring me that she was feeling some soreness, too. Feeling humbled, I discovered a string of thoughts flying through my mind. “I’m supposed to be leading her, teaching her what it costs to hike this far.” “She doesn’t need me to set a pace for her. In fact, I might actually be slowing her down. Maybe I should tell her to hike ahead?” “If she doesn’t need me, then what purpose am I fulfilling? What value am I adding to the event, to younger hikers?”
Amid this mental struggle, I realized God was showing me something about leadership that I know in my head, but struggle to live out in daily life. Generally, we leaders rise in our professions because of the value of our work. We become accustomed to letting others follow our lead, even finding ourselves thinking that everything and everyone depend on us. Training up younger leaders and giving them opportunities to go beyond our expertise threatens our value and even our futures. Fear of becoming inadequate and unneeded looms within even the most seasoned leader. I am much more comfortable staying in the lead or inviting others to walk alongside me than I am letting another break trail and providing space for them to grow into leadership. I have to ask myself, “Am I willing to let them succeed or fail and not believe that it says something about me and my own success or failure?”
When I look at the ways that Jesus led His disciples, I marvel at His example of humility. In Mark 1:17, Jesus invited his first disciples to “Come, follow me.” This was not only an invitation to follow His example, but also an invitation to relationship, to learning to live as Jesus lived. But Jesus knew that if the disciples only ever went where He went or did what He did, then they wouldn’t truly take ownership for the power and authority He was actually giving them. So, not long after He invited them to follow Him, He also “sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits” (Mark 6:7). Jesus let them go out and do ministry in His name without hovering over them to make sure they did it the “right way.” And when they returned they told Jesus about all that they had done and seen, their successes and failures.
Even as they debriefed their experiences, a crowd gathered to hear Jesus teach. The people were hungry, and the disciples who had just been out doing ministry turn to Jesus for what to do next. Jesus put the ball back in their court. He told them to “give them something to eat” (Mark 6:37). He passed them the baton, giving them the opportunity to take the lead. Now, we know that the disciples fumbled this one as they struggled to grasp the difference between faith in God and physical reality. We know that Jesus, not the disciples, multiplied the bread and fish, and there was plenty to eat. This foible on the part of the disciples did not define their future ministry and leadership, though. We see after Christ’s death and resurrection that these men, who could barely grasp the vision Christ was setting before them, were filled with the Spirit’s power and became the bold and radical leaders who carried on the relentless truth that Jesus lived, died, and rose again for us. And those men changed the world as they strode ahead and carried the gospel to places it had never been before.
You see, Jesus knew that these ordinary men would need to follow Him. They would need to walk alongside Him and learn from Him. But they would also need to be able to carry on the truth of His life and death when He was no longer physically with them.
What would it look like for me to let those who may be younger or less experienced take the lead? Can I trust that my value is not diminished by another’s ability to do what I can do and maybe a little more? Will I have the humility to learn from those who are younger or less experienced than I? Am I seeking to promote myself and my abilities, or am I simply being obedient to what God has called me to? Am I willing to lead from behind, as well as from the front?
These questions and more leave me in awe that God never stops transforming us and teaching us on our journey with Him. Will I stop and accept the discomfort of what He may be leading me to lay down, in order that He might be glorified?
Come along side us as we journey in and out of the wilderness, discovering our Creator in creation.