Title: A new view of the upside-down life
Sometimes, the only way up is down. I learned that the hard way.
One glorious autumn afternoon in Appalachia, I stood perilously close to the edge of a huge rock jutting out several hundred feet above a deep, wooded gorge ablaze with fall colors.
Brilliant shades of the red maples, yellow poplars and orange pin oaks overwhelmed me with awe that a Divine Creator could engineer such beauty. Caught up in the rapture of the moment, I moved forward — too far — and found myself plummeting rapidly through the empty air.
Certain death awaited me, I knew, and I began to pray with fervent repentance punctuated with a plea that God’s redeeming grace would claim my tattered soul.
Before I reached the “Amen,” however, my prayer ended abruptly when I collided bottom-first with the top of a large, cushy poplar tree. Small branches broke as I crashed through them, but the tree limbs on which I landed held fast. After some painful maneuvering, I found myself sitting upright, facing the trunk, my legs straddling the widest part of the limb.
My face, hands and legs burned from scratches and scrapes. The gnarled rough bark under me was etching ridges in the backs of my thighs below my walking shorts. I didn’t care. I was far too busy thanking the Lord for saving my tattered body.
I surveyed the remoteness of my rugged roost. I had to leave my nest, get down the tree, find a trail leading back up the mountain and hike a pretty hefty distance — uphill all the way. I knew I had to start moving soon before stiffness and soreness from the fall set in. The climb down wasn’t hard for an experienced tomboy who once had a tree house.
Safely on the ground, I found myself enveloped in a cathedral of trees. Lush vegetation edged the pathway. I reveled in splashes of brilliant gold from a clump of tiny flowers I would have never seen from high above.
A few moments of quiet worship here in the valley filled me with new vigor and a sense of pioneer spirit. Suddenly, I thought of the words of a song based on Psalm 23 — “In the valley He restoreth my soul.”
After a short reverie, I dug into my backpack, slathered some antibiotic ointment on my scratches, stuck on a Band-Aid or two and downed a small bottle of water and a snack. I checked my trusty wide-end flashlight to make sure it was working and prepared for the journey upward.
I glanced up and saw a halo of fading sunlight bathing the treetops along the rim of the gorge. I stepped forward — cautiously and deliberately.
As I made my way up a winding trail, my thoughts turned to the idea of following Jesus through difficult places. Some of His New Testament teachings came to mind.
“If you want to be great in My kingdom, become the servant of all,” He told them.
I began to grasp in a new way what Jesus had meant when He challenged His followers to live what amounts to an upside-down life.
“If you want to really live, you must learn to die — like a grain of wheat that falls into the ground and dies in order to live again as a plant that will provide food for others,” Jesus said.
“And the way up is down,” I thought, considering my situation. My valley created a new vantage point from which I could look upward and appreciate God’s handiwork in places scarcely seen by human eyes.
My trip to the valley had humbled me — and challenged me. It made me realize my constant need of God’s hand on my life. He used the leafy arms of a tree to catch me on the way down. He gave me the knowledge and stamina to survive the trip up.
In the valley He restored my soul.
On the way up, I could truly thank God for the trip down.
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