Thursday, January 15, 2009

Up Lifting

I need, for myself, to write about something that is very good and that I am most grateful for in my life. I feel like, at this moment, I'm being swallowed by fear and failure, hopelessness and frailty. But there is so much good in my life.

Long ago, I went on a trip with some friends. When we returned home I wished, overall, that I hadn't gone. Still, I have realized, starting then, and in the years since, that I was supposed to go, if only for this one incident that has affected my life since then.

Four of us went for a hike. I don't remember the name of the place we went, and I won't disclose the location, but at some point we were walking along a ravine. We were looking for a way to get down in it so we could walk along the beautiful river that flowed through it. It was rocky and steep. The rocks were a deep red, similar to those I had climbed on so many times as a child on camping trips to Red Cliffs, in Southern Utah.

 We all started on our way down, each choosing a different path we thought would suit us. I found a place that almost looked like stairs going down. Very steep stairs. I thought, if I went down facing the rock, it shouldn't be too hard to just step down. As I was deciding if this was really the way down for me, I looked over and saw the teenage boy that was with us making his way down. His way looked way too tricky for me. I could see all the muscles standing out of his slender, toned body as he worked his way down the rock. Um, my muscles didn't look like that. Really, my muscles didn't look at all, as in they were hidden, rarely used, and certainly never seen. That was definitely not the way for me. Mine was just right, and it was only really maybe 20-25 feet down. I'd be down in a flash.

I crouched down and put my hands on the tops of the rocks where there was enough soil for a few tiny weeds to grow. I cursed myself for not having cut my fingernails for the fifth time that day. They were getting dirty and gross and making it hard to hold on to rocks. I stepped down onto what was my first "step". It was kind of far down, and harder to get onto than I'd expected but I had both of my feet on it at last, and I was ready to think about moving down to the next step. I could hear the others making their way down as I stood there contemplating my next move.

 Really, I felt sort of stuck. I realized that there was no way for me to get down to the next step, as the one I was on was too small for me to be able to crouch down again. Plus, I need to be holding on all the time. As I stood there trying to figure out what to do, my feet started slipping. The rock I was standing on was situated on a little too much of an incline. I held faster to the soil my hands were resting on, but I needed rock to hold, and there was none in the right place. My feet kept slipping. I knew that I couldn't lift either of them to bring them higher up or I would surely fall down.

I dug my fingers into the dirt. I searched everywhere for any weed growing within reach that might be large enough to offer me enough support so that I could fix my footing. There were none. I grabbed a handful of the tiny ones that were there, hoping that together their roots might help hold me a little bit. They ripped out (of course).

About this time I called to my friend to come quickly and help me. I was frantic. I dug my fingers into the earth as deeply as I could. I continued to slip. I felt that if I had cut my fingernails before this hiking trip, I would already have fallen. My claws are what were keeping me from going over. But I was still slipping and I could feel my hands were starting to tear the soil as the rest of my body started following my feet. "Okay. Here I go," I thought, as I realized I had nothing, and I was going down. Right now. . .

Just then I saw my friend climbing quickly over the rocks above me. She jumped down by my hands, secured her feet and grabbed one of my hands. . 1-3 more seconds and I would have fallen on solid rock on my back,and would very likely have died. She started pulling at my hand until I was supported enough to give her my other hand. I resettled my feet in a more sure position and she pulled and I was up.

I was up on top again. As if nothing had happened. As if I hadn't almost died. And it had been so easy for her. I'm not sure the others realized how terrified I had been for my life right then. How utterly helpless I had stood there, losing my footing, trying to prepare myself to fall to my death, all resources completely exhausted, but one.

I have thought about this so many times. There was absolutely nothing I could have done to save myself. Nothing. But one hand from above me, and I was completely freed from all that panic, horror and fear.

This is exactly how grace works. We make wrong choices, struggle with weaknesses and sometimes cannot see our way out. We feel fear, helplessness and desperation. But there is always someone standing over us. He waits for us to ask Him to help us. And He always will. There is no need to fall. There is no need to fear that we will fall.

This works day to day. It also is how things will work in the end. Those going into heaven are supposed to be perfect. I'm not perfect. I can't be. I don't even know how. I can try, but I will fail, ultimately. There is absolutely nothing I can do to save myself. Nothing. But one hand from above me, and I will be completely freed from all insufficiency. I just have to ask.

32 comments:

Kazzy said...

Great metaphor, Lisa. That hand reaching down has shown up in my life a number of times too, but I loved how literal it was for you. It is so disconcerting to think back on these near-death kids of experiences and to realize how quickly we can be gone. I was going over a hill once with some girlfriends in high school when we crested the top head on with a pick up truck and somehow avoided being wiped out. Whenever I think of it I have feeling of gratitude for my wash over me. And, grace is a beautiful gospel principle that we sometimes don't talk about enough. Thanks again!

Kazzy said...

...gratitude for my life wash over me...

Heather of the EO said...

Beautiful post, Lisa. So true. I needed that today. Thank you.

Melissa said...

That was a wonderful post. I have felt the hand of the Savior reach down so many times as I was about to fall. It truly is a marvelous thing.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

You are so right. Sometimes I wonder why we always wait until we're really about to fall before we ask for help. We feel a little embarrassed, a little bit like we need to figure it out ourselves, but he's standing there ready to help at ANY point. Sometimes I wish I would ask earlier.

Annette Lyon said...

That's beautiful and inspiring.

So sorry you're going through a rough patch. I hope things turn up soon.

McEwens said...

What a great way to teach grace!! I love it! AND I AM SO GLAD YOU ARE OK!

Heidi Ashworth said...

What a great post! But, Lisa, those going into heaven are NOT supposed to be perfect. Just toss that idea out the window. None of us will ever be perfect when we die. That's why we need the atonement. That's why the Savior is so essential. Not one of us can make it without Him. Yes, he absolves us of those sins we commit when we are too young to be "good enough" but in the end, he is still the bridge that spans the distance between how far we have come in this life and how far we have to go. What matters is our desire, our attitude about it, how much we allow the atonement to work in our lives and how hard we try.

JustRandi said...

I love this!
It's a rare occasion where I find a life metaphor that works so perfectly. (and usually I forget to write them down!)
Thank-you so much for sharing this today!

Lara said...

Such a dramatic way to learn an important life lesson. So beautifully written, and just something I need to hear right now myself. I hope whatever it is that's hard for you right now gets easier soon.

Thanks for sharing this.

Rebecca said...

Wow. Thank you for sharing this. What a scary experience to go through, but the lesson is beautiful

I hope you submit this to Bloggers Annex, everyone should read this post.

Erin said...

That was really great. Thank you.

Susan said...

Thanks, Lis. I needed a cry and a think. Now I've got both going on here.

Me plus 3 Hecks said...

Great analogy, Lisa! I love when we get an "aha" moment like that from real life and can retain it for future spiritual uplift.

But what I really want to know is: why did you regret the trip? :)

wendy said...

That was a beautiful story. I wonder sometimes how close we come to death -without even knowing it. I don't know how I could survive if I didn't know God was there for me.

Moody said...

Sometimes the best lessons are those you learn physically. I'm SO glad you didn't fall, and I'm SO glad you wrote this post to share with everyone. Excellent job as usual!

Heather said...

Thanks so much for sharing this analogy. You are such a great writer and I am always amazed by the details that include in your stories. It makes them so real.

Melanie J said...

I too have felt grace reach down to grab and lift me over the last two weeks. God is good.

And great writing, btw.

Mama Cher, Ok, fine, it's Sharon said...

Great post Lisa! I was just thinking of a similar experience, but couldn't put it into words as beautifully as you did.

Becoming Me said...

I'm so glad that I found your blog...you are a beautiful writer...oh and such beautiful truths. I'm so grateful that His help is never far

MelancholySmile said...

I found this post so extremely touching. Thank you for sharing, and I sincerely hope that you can feel the peace and love of the savior at this time. I know for myself that focusing on truths during dark and difficult times truly helps, even if it doesn't take away the pain of whatever we are facing.

Alison Wonderland said...

Lisa, I'm so sorry things aren't going well for you right now. But look at you turn it into a beautiful faith promoting experience rather than just wallowing.

What's that about?

pam at beyondjustmom said...

I felt a wave of chills as I was reading your post. Just beautiful.
And hey, I also know what it's like to feel swallowed by fear of failure, even when there is so much good in your life. It's real--don't get stuck on what you "should" do and don't be afraid to ask for help.
Blessings.

Kimberly said...

I can't even imagine how terrifying that must have been...but what a beautiful metaphor you crafted it into.

Jen said...

Can I just say I know the feeling? Near-falling-to-death experiences are such thought (and thankfulness) provoking things.

Glad you made it, by the way - and hope you're feeling the love now:)

Josi said...

One part of this that struck me was that you asked for help--you knew you couldn't do it yourself. How often do I find myself in need of help but I keep my mouth closed because of pride, embarrassment, self-deception that I really can fix it by myself? Great post--food for thought.

3 Bay B Chicks said...

Your analogies are always so thought provoking, Lisa. You really do have an amazing way of expressing yourself through your writing.

After your near fall occurred, did you have a can-you-believe-what-just-happened moment with your friend?

-Francesca

gramalee said...

Beautiful and true -- or is that redundant? Truth? Beauty? Bravo and thanks. xo

Erin said...

Wow. That is Ensign article material. Or general conference. I will be listening for it when you are in the Relief Society Presidency.

ncheshire said...

Well, you just made my Sunday School lesson. Congratulations, I'm sure you're thrilled.

charrette said...

Such beautiful parallels drawn here, and powerful writing. I have been there before, paralyzed on a precipice, and felt the hand of grace.
You took me right back...and then lifted me up. Thanks.

Anne said...

you need to write a book!