I’ve never thought I was particularly afraid of heights. For a good portion of my adult life I lived in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains. While not one of its peaks makes the top 100 highest in the US, for a girl from southeast Texas it was still pretty impressive. State park areas offered vistas and overlooks from which you could take in the vastness and beauty that abounds. I loved driving the winding roads, stepping out on a flat rock jutting out over the edge, and taking it all in as if I were on the top of the world.
I recently read an article that said is not uncommon for a fear of heights to develop as you age. I haven’t had an opportunity to test the writer’s theory, haven’t visited any mountain peaks lately, but just thinking about going out on an unguarded boulder on the edge of a mountaintop (insert shiver) at this point in my life leads me to suspect this would be proven true of me. The facts upon which his theory is based have to do with our sense of balance and he states ‘As you get older, your organ of balance tends to deteriorate and you’re likely to feel more physically vulnerable.’*
I’m glad I have those physical mountaintop experiences even though I may not want to repeat them. I’m also glad for the time and vision God gave me when I was actually sitting on a mountain. And I wonder, in all the years before and since, how many times I’ve asked Him to take me higher, seeking the euphoria of His presence and the encouragement to face whatever may come. Whatever the number, it has only increased in the last few months. I’ve been asking for more. Yet it’s in this asking that He’s shown me I’ve become afraid of heights.
Oh, I’m not afraid of the euphoria, I want that excitement and delight! But He’s taken me to a new understanding of what it means to be given hinds’ feet, made able to walk on high places. Other than in the Psalms the only place hinds’ feet are mentioned is in Habbakuk.
Habbakuk lived in troubled times. He couldn’t understand why God allowed so much injustice to continue and he voiced his complaints and frustrations to Him. Then he waited for God to answer. (Note to self: this could be part of my problem…) And the Lord answered. God encouraged Habbakuk that eventually righteousness would reign again and his hope was restored. So Habbakuk began to recall the mighty works that God had done before, stirring up his own faith (another note to self), and ended with:
The Lord God is my Strength and personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me to walk – not stand still in terror, but to walk – and make spiritual progress upon my high places of trouble, suffering, and responsibility! (3:19)
It’s the responsibility part of going higher that’s troubling me, that gives me hesitation. As a young Christian the high places were always those quick answers to prayer, the learning, the growing, the seeing God do amazing things in my life, my family, my church. Exciting stuff! But now that I am older, I see the responsibility side of going higher as I never have, that high places are now more about others than myself. And I wonder if I have what it takes to bear the responsibility.
Living in troubled times (as we do) often makes it difficult to know exactly what our responsibilities are when it comes to living out our faith. Just how much are we to do for others? If you, like me and many others, have ever gotten trapped in an overload of the responsibilities for other people so much that it sucked the life out of you, you may, like me and many others, be afraid to step back out there. After caring for and ministering to evacuees of the hurricane a couple of years ago, the idea of caring for others in crisis gives me more than a little hesitation. It kinda freaks me out. I feel as if I’ve lost my balance and I’m vulnerable, not ready to let my heart go there again.
Even as Habbakuk remembered the power of God, he still trembled at the thought of all that would occur. So to encourage himself even if/when famine would strike, he remembered God would help him be stable and secure, just like the hind.
I love this description of the hind:
A hind is a female deer that can place her back feet exactly where her front feet stepped. Not one inch off! She is able to run with abandonment! In times of danger, she is able to run securely and not get “off track.” The hind is able to scale unusually difficult terrain and elude predators.**
I want to run with abandon. I want to throw off my fear of getting “off track” and run toward that next high place of responsibility. Taking sure footed steps of obedience as He leads me, making spiritual progress. Am I still afraid of going higher? Sure. But I’m reminding myself of all the amazing things God has done before and I’m more afraid of what I’ll miss if I don’t go.
Wanna go with me?
“Afraid of heights” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com
*Kevin Gournay, emeritus professor at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London