High Places

Our bus roared up the side of the mountain as the announcer introduced our tour. The buses, he informed us, were specially designed for the steep inclines and sharp descents. As the intercom spoke calmly to us, telling us some history, the bus navigated turns with terrifying familiarity up a very winding road.

My palms began to sweat as I glanced at quaint villages shrinking below me. My stomach dropped and that familiar feeling of fear invaded. I believe I felt my adrenal gland squirt out all its adrenaline.

I’m not so good on the high places.

My children noticed my growing anxiety and jumped at the opportunity to claim superior courage. They were fearless, mom was not. They reminded me that clutching the armrest provided absolutely no help if the bus left the road and tumbled down the mountain. We were all goners.

Yes (tightly), I know!

They estimated how far we would roll and why we would need the tool hung up on the side of the bus to break the glass since, of course, there would be no survivors. They deduced the tool was there to calm the passengers on the ride.

Thank you for pointing that out. Good job on the deductive reasoning, children.

I became the focus of the ride as they did their best to exacerbate my fear and have some fun. We finally came to the top and the kids ran to the open fence that any large adult could slip through to see the views of the valley way, way, way below. They turned back with sly grins to wait for my inevitable, uncontrollable, completely expected, tense reminder.

Do not climb the fence!

It took me awhile to adjust to the high places. My view was initially limited because it was mainly the ground in front of my feet. By sheer will, I looked out tentatively. The villages below so tiny. The fences so non-existent. The air that stretched out before me when there should be hard ground.

I knew I was missing out on enjoying the spectacular sights because of my fear. Fear is so overpowering and irrational, it steals the moment. I didn’t want to miss out on this moment. The beauty, the grandeur, the awe of the high places.

I had a choice of whether I was going to embrace the high places with all their danger and beauty. My memories could consist of dirt and rocks below me, or vast distances of beauty before me.

When I did start looking farther out, I saw deep blue shimmering lakes nestled between mountains. Green and yellow patchwork fields rolled between quaint cottages. Blue skies stretched far with white clouds and jutting grey mountains meeting.

It was spectacular.img_7517

My husband and I agreed that the kids needed him to fully enjoy climbing the rocks. I wandered the high places, a bit farther back from the edge than some, reflecting on that book I love, Hinds Feet on High Places.

The ascents to the high places with God are terrifying. Medical issues suddenly come to light, conflicts arise, disasters happen and we’re on a red bus screaming up to the high places where we are forced to trust Him or be miserable.

No one wishes for these things. On those ascents, I often live in the very immediate circumstance rather than lift my eyes up and out to look at the expanse of His creation, the beauty and the majesty.

After many ascents, I know the views from the top with the experience of His faithfulness on the way up, they are not to be traded. When I clutch the armrests of life, thinking I can save myself, the control I exert ends up controlling me.

The trip down the mountain in the special red bus was better. I looked out the window and enjoyed the views. My palms didn’t leave as much of a slimy residue on the armrests. The kids gave up their antics as they saw mom had finally gotten a grip on reality.

I suspect surrender always involves a battle, a reckoning, and a white flag. My regrets looking back on those ascents are that I didn’t acknowledge God’s sovereignty sooner.

I might have experienced more freedom and seen more of His wonder had I surrendered earlier.

The Side View

You would think that dodging motorcyclists, pedestrians, and lane-crossers that my capacity for the relative calm and peace of the American roadway would usher in less stress.  I sure believed such things.

I believed I conquered driving stress as a road warrior in Asia, or at least I believed my experiences driving in Asia at least increased my immunity to stress on the road.  Oh, how wrong I was!  Driving in the U.S. of A. ranks among my most surprising sources of stress upon re entry.

I realized the level of my defensiveness, my learned behavior in Asia, was making me dangerous.  My husband and I joked about my PTSD on the road but it wasn’t a joke.  My inability to remain in a lane for fear the car next to me will drift into my lane was, among other behaviors, highly dangerous and I knew it.

The surge of my foot to the brake when any car pulls up to enter traffic from a parking lot is lightening quick.  I break whenever a car even looks like it is thinking about pulling into traffic.  Why?  Drivers in Asia never stop on the way out of a parking lot, trusting that all other drivers will just make room for them.  So, I have deep trust issues.

I drive slow.  Traffic in Asia is mostly pretty slow as it all happens in highly congested cities.  Most of the time I drove at about 30-40 miles an hour.  I was unprepared for traffic to move at 60-70 miles an hour on weaving highways with concrete barriers blocking out the shoulder.  Add to that, drivers seem to trust that others will stay in their lanes which makes them completely comfortable to hang out right next to me at high speeds.  This reckless behavior just sends adrenaline streaking through my body.

To make it worse, sometimes I wasn’t driving but my husband was behind the wheel.  Such losses of control in areas of fear are true tests of character.  Well, I failed them all.  My efforts to grab hold of anything in the car and my convulsive movements into crash positions when he was driving made me dangerous even in the passenger seat!  Fortunately, my husband is understanding and did his best to patiently ignore his crazy wife in the passenger seat.

There is always something unexpected in transition and I began to clue in that driving was my unexpected stressor this time.  Did not see that one coming!  Ah, pride, what a blinder of the soul.  I thought I owned the road and maybe I did just a little…in Asia…but in Texas?  Not at all.  The road was owning me.

So after much soul searching I began looking out the side window instead of looking out the windshield (only when I’m not driving of course).  It took me awhile to do this because, for some reason, I thought that yielding my ability to look forward would somehow negate my control of the future.  So silly!  But, fear usually does not go hand in hand with calm logic.

In this season of fear, I’m struck by the simplicity of living in the present.  Our present is full of boxes, half unpacked or in transit or in a storage unit.  It is also a season of road trips and visiting family and friends.  We are in transition and the longing of my soul is for that future point in which we are settled, so it is difficult to say the least to live in the present.

Living in the present is looking out the side window observing and noticing what is right next to me rather than reacting to all that might could possibly happen.

Even though the present passes by quickly it is beautiful and not to be missed.


The Thief in the Night

Dark places breed fear. Just ask my child who wakes in the night calling for me. Or, listen to my problems multiply in the dim light of evening. Troubles loom and monsters lurk in dark places.

I listened to my child tell of jaunts to the bathroom postponed until dawn, lamps switched on, and books read in the middle of the night. Being a fearful child myself, I relate. A bump in the day and a bump in the night? Totally different.

I talk myself out of fear with the lamp. “How silly!” I say to myself when I think of that thief that climbed into a third floor apartment. I turn on the lamp. Fear never feels silly. Totally justifiable. Proud in its awareness of dangers to be avoided. Telling someone to simply not be afraid falls short…far short.

Sunlight dawning in my soul says if the thief comes, he cannot take anything God does not allow for His purpose. Because, you see, the thief can and does come. The thief is real. Fear exists because evil exists.

Freedom comes as I acknowledge that the dark is dark but that the light overcomes the dark…and the light resides with me always.

How do you deal with fear?