By Joel Bates
As Eli eyed me warily, then the ground far below, and then me again, the blood drained from his face and reality set in. He had made it to the brink, but in his focus to get here and achieve the task, he had overlooked—more likely ignored—the one factor that would determine his success: What would he decide?
Eli had spent the day quietly offering up his service to the group, pulling lines and hauling his teammates up to the platform waiting 30 feet high in the trees. Another junior high group was assaulting our high initiative called Mt Zippie’s Revenge, an aptly named zip line that requires a unified group effort to get individual members up to the launch platform. Eli had helped others and had then relied on his teammates to get him to the elevated platform, but when it came time to make a desperate personal choice of faith, he faltered at the height.
“I don’t think I can do this,” he confided to me. I told him I thought he could.
“Will this hold me?” he asked, indicating the trolley apparatus. I told him it would.
He was looking now straight ahead, down the long cable that disappeared on the next rise across the valley. Without taking his eyes off the terrifying expanse, he appealed, “What will it be like?” I told him it would require faith; it would be exhilarating; and after he stepped off the platform, the only thing left to do would be to enjoy the ride.
He looked at me with concern lining his brow, and I gave one last reassurance, “Go for it!” He hunched down awkwardly and shuffled his feet a couple inches to the edge. Then Eli half fell, half stepped off the platform, releasing an animal-like, guttural noise that emanated from the depths of his will, the place where choice, courage, and decision live.
In an instant, he found himself zooming through the air, fully dependent on the zip line, the harness, and the trolley equipment. All the inhibitions and insecurities that had threatened his success he had willfully traded for the exhilaration of really living. He was rapidly picking up speed about 20 feet out from the tower when the guttural noise erupted into an exuberant Hallelujah! What exclamation could be more fitting for that moment! It stuck with me.
Hallelujah is actually a combination of two words Hebrew words, halal and Yah, that simply and profoundly mean, “Praise God!” As I reflected on Eli’s proclamation and his struggle on the zip line launch pad, I began to see parallels in my own life. I am regularly faced with choices of faith, decisions that will inevitably leave me little or no control over the outcomes, and the feelings that Eli experienced atop the sheer drop of the zip line are only a magnified example of my own stepping off into a path that seems at best uncertain and at worst dangerous and costly. As a believer who professes faith in an unseen God, though, I find myself zipping down the line-of-life-in-Christ on more occasions than are comfortable for me.
I’m convicted by Eli’s response. How often do I step out in faith, simply closing my eyes or hollering at the top of my lungs unintelligibly? What if I grew a habit of raising a “Hallelujah!” at the very moment of faith, even before I’ve seen the outcome? Isn’t this what the apostle Paul and Silas did in the Philippian prison? It appears they are facing certain doom, yet what are they doing? Singing! Praising God! Hallelujah! That’s when an earthquake comes and opens the prison doors, but the inmates don’t escape, the jailer doesn’t commit suicide, and lots of people get saved.
That’s the result of a Hallelujah! attitude. Praise God anywhere, everywhere, at all times, at every age!
Come along side us as we journey in and out of the wilderness, discovering our Creator in creation.