Here I am again. Always thinking myself to be supremely capable--even invincible--I often find myself as I am now. On the brink of disaster. This time much closer to that brink than ever before.
I cannot go on. My only chance for survival is to go back. My breath comes in ragged gasps. I can hear as well as feel my pulse pounding in my ears, my head, my chest. Worst of all, drenching, terror-wrought sweat liberally lubricates my hands. Hands which need a solid, non-slip hold in order to maintain my tenuous grip on this narrow ledge. --For that matter, on life itself.
Come on, Bill, think. You don’t need to panic at a time like this.
Calling for help will do no good. I am alone. Why didn’t I listen when those more experienced tried to tell me that I was not ready for this climbing challenge? Instead, I decided to show them…in a big way! Not only would I climb, I would free climb. No ropes. No safety equipment at all.
I dare a glance down. The ground seems miles away. The cars I can see below me look like mere toys. A fresh wave of terror sweeps over me. Why, oh why did I look down? Another case of not listening, I guess.
Look around…but not down. Concentrate and come up with a plan. You can do this.
Now...how exactly did I get up here? I search my memory to recall, step by step, how I got to this point so that I can reverse my actions to get back down.
Ever so slowly, while maintaining my white-knuckled grip on the ledge, I inch my right foot out of the crevice into which I had wedged it in my attempt to gain additional height. Let’s see…I had raised it there from a position just below and slightly to the right of its current location. I wave the foot gently in the air, stretching to regain its former placement.
There’s something solid! Stretch just a tiny bit more. Don’t let fear overtake reason. You got up here, you can get down. Reach out…that’s it. Yes!
I allow myself an instant of quiet celebration.
Once again, I look around. Although I can see no one, I feel certain that I am not really alone. Strange as it seems, I can’t shake the feeling that someone is watching over me from somewhere nearby. A guardian angel, perhaps?
Okay, Bill. Onward and…well, downward. One step retraced. How many more to go? Never mind that. Just one step and then another.
My little self pep-talks seem to be helping. I continue. Left foot…right hand…left hand. Progress is excruciatingly slow, and ever wrought with the danger of falling. But I’m getting there. Each appendage moved once…now back to my right foot again. I stretch as far as I can and wave my foot back and forth trying to find a foothold. Despite my best attempt to maintain a solid three points of contact while reaching with my right foot, my left foot slips from the safety of its hold, leaving me hanging by my hands alone. Now in a panic, I swing my feet wildly in an attempt to gain any sort of footing. This is a colossal mistake. The swinging of my body loosens the grip of my hands…and they slip.
God, help me!
The fall is not what I expected. It takes a mere instant…or is it an eternity? The landing is much softer than I would have thought possible from such a height. I feel a jolt, but no pain. Perhaps I am in shock. I survey my surroundings and discover that I have landed on a reasonably wide ledge.
Thank-you, God. Show me what to do, now.
The answer comes not in an audible voice, but in an undeniable conviction to stay right where I am to wait for help. It will come…I am certain. I close my eyes and rest.
"Jim! --Do you have a minute before your meeting? …Good. I just had to call to tell you about Billy. It was so cute. He almost climbed out of his crib today! He got clear up to the top of the rail before he got this look of panic and went back. He slipped down the last few inches on to his mattress and then fell asleep. …No, no. He didn’t see me. I kept just out of his sight around the corner while I watched."
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