by Rich Maffeo
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not; In all your ways be mindful of Him, and He will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).
I had heard about the rappelling tower. Its reputation loomed larger than life weeks before my arrival in San Antonio for military training. I stood in line with two dozen others and stared soberly at the fifty-three-foot rickety wooden structure. My palms start to sweat when I stand on a chair.
"Pick up the rope in front of you." The sergeant's bark broke into my thoughts.
With a series of twists and jerks, he led us in wrapping the rope around, under, and behind our waist and thighs to form a saddle. Then he marched us to the ladder and we climbed toward the clouds. Clumps of dirt fell from the boots of those ahead of me.
When the last straggler took her place on the platform, the sergeant asked, "Who's afraid of heights?"
I raised my hand, fervently hoping he'd send me back down the ladder. I was wrong.
"You're first," he said.
With the proverbial patience of Job, the sergeant fastened a rope through the "D" ring and guided it around to my back. My stomach churned as I stepped toward the ledge. Like a robot, I obeyed the sergeant's instructions and grabbed the line in front of me with my left hand and the line behind me with my right. The tail end fell what seemed five miles to the ground.
Sweat dripped from my forehead as I leaned back into space. Resigned to my fate, I let out a few inches of rope. In a moment, I was perpendicular to the tower wall, fifty-three very long feet above the Texas soil.
"Jump!" the sergeant commanded.
I pushed away from the wall and plummeted toward earth until I gripped the rope and stopped my descent. Euphoria swelled in my chest when I realized I was still alive. I pushed again and fell another twenty feet. One more shove and I landed gently on Texas soil.
Sometimes my struggle with confidence in God's power, presence, and love is a little like my struggle with that monstrous fifty-three-foot tower. Biblical faith is more than intellectual assent to God's existence. It is God-centered and births an active, risk-taking confidence that proclaims, "I will trust God no matter where He leads and no matter what He tells me to do."
Just as I needed to believe the rope would hold me, I need to believe God will not leave me hanging in space - or let me fall. And though I might wonder if the Father really knows how far it is to the bottom, I've also experienced what the Psalmist learned, "Those whose steps are guided by the Lord, whose way God approves, may stumble, but they will never fall, for the Lord holds their hand" (Psalm 37:23-24).
That's one of the things the Creed helps us remember - not only what we believe, but in whom we believe. No wonder you and I can trust Him, even if He asks us to lean into His arms and dangle fifty-three feet above the ground.
Prayer: Lord, I believe in You. Increase my faith. I trust in You. Strengthen my trust. I love You. Let me love You more and more. (Pope Clement XI)
These meditations are compiled in Richard Maffeo's book, "We Believe: Forty Meditations on the Nicene Creed." The book is available through bookstores and his website
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