Opinion: Clinging to a tree

Matt Vroom

Matt Vroom

By Cassie Cleary

It’s human nature to believe we’re invincible. Or, at least, it’s human nature to believe this while we’re still young. With two solid feet on the ground, we grow pretty confident walking around on this Earth. Not only do we think we’ll live forever; we also believe we’re self-sufficient and in total control of our lives. It’s not until we get up in the air that we finally realize our limitations. For me, this meant realizing God’s control over my life.

Last weekend, I went on a Christian retreat. Although I received important spiritual guidance from the speakers and seminars – and experienced amazing fellowship with other Christians – one of the most important lessons I learned was from the tightrope course in the woods.

Who knows why I decided to try the tightrope course. I think sleep deprivation was impairing my judgment. Somehow, I missed the looks of terror on the faces of those who struggled to maintain their balance 20 feet above me.

The tightrope course is a little difficult to explain. It involves maintaining your balance 20 feet above ground while walking a tightrope for about 30 feet. Five ropes hang vertically above for you to grab onto along the way. Of course, you’re in a harness so you don’t fall 20 feet to your death.

The trouble is, when you’re up there, the harness doesn’t provide much comfort. After all, it’s not going to save you from losing your balance. You still might experience falling; you just don’t have to experience the consequences (like breaking your neck).

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I was standing on the tree that the tight rope was connected to, about to take my first step, when I suddenly realized I couldn’t take that step. I couldn’t let go of the tree I was clinging to. I looked down at the ropes instructor and called out, “I don’t want to let go of the tree!”

His reply wasn’t anything profound, but it really hit me. He called up, “Oh, I guess you’re human, then.”

He was right. There was no denying I was weak and vulnerable and frightened at that moment. I didn’t want to let go of the tree, and as much as I wanted to believe I was in control and able to handle it, the truth is, I wasn’t. I was forced to come to terms with my limits as a human.

Eventually, I took that first step and subsequently finished the course, but it was a shaky walk, and I couldn’t have made it without the ropes to hang on to. God, on the other hand, would have been able to walk the tightrope with His hands – while juggling and playing the harmonica.

But I’m not God.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said we are all “part or particle of God.” He meant we are empowered with a supernatural presence as God’s spirit flows through us. I think Emerson took it a little too far, though. I believe we all are particles of God, in that we were created in His image. However, we’re not miniature little versions of God. We weren’t endowed with God’s almighty power, strength or omnipotence – no matter how much we want to believe we were.

There are many things in life that humans don’t have the strength to go through alone. That’s why it’s so amazing for me to rest in the comfort of God, knowing He has perfect dominion and complete supremacy.

God offers salvation from my troubles, and even salvation from my sins. This is the hope that faith in God makes possible. The only other alternative is faith in one’s self. It took me 19 years and a tightrope course to realize that placing faith in such an imperfect, weak being just won’t cut it.

Cassie Cleary is a sophomore in LAS. Her column runs Wednesday. She can be reached at [email protected].