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Between a rock and a hard place

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

June 29, 2004



My friend and I were rock-climbing instructors at a summer camp in New Hampshire and had spent the day scouting new routes appropriate for our teenage campers.

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Our last trek took us to a huge rock slab in the middle of a mature forest. It looked perfect for climbing from the front, so we began to hike up the side to see how we would connect safety anchors and maneuver kids up the rock face.

The first 20 minutes were easy. The rock face began at knee level and rose to about 200 feet at its highest point. The ascent up the side - with a dense forested hill to our left and a sheer rock face to our right - looked straightforward and safe.

After about 30 minutes of hiking, however, we realized we were in trouble. The higher we climbed, the looser the soil became, until we were kicking away the ground with each upward step. The ascent became steeper and much more perilous. We couldn't retreat, and going higher seemed even more dangerous.

Then suddenly I fell and slipped toward the edge of the cliff. Fortunately I was rescued by a well-placed rock ledge. Moments later my friend tumbled but grabbed onto a tree trunk. After her fall, we retreated into the thick scrub brush away from the rock's edge to steady ourselves. We each sat, deeply shaken, braced behind tree trunks on the 45-degree slope, 150 feet above the ground.

Both my friend and I had been raised to rely on God for all our needs, including help in dangerous situations and healing of physical difficulties. Sitting on the edge of the mountain, we talked about the need to recognize God's omnipresence even in a situation as tough as this one. We found comfort in the words of a poem written by Mary Baker Eddy, who founded this newspaper:

Shepherd, show me how to go
O'er the hillside steep,
How to gather, how to sow,-
How to feed Thy sheep;
I will listen for Thy voice,
Lest my footsteps stray;
I will follow and rejoice
All the rugged way.
("Poems," page 14)

We were indeed on a steep hillside, on a rugged way. We resolved to take a few minutes to be quiet and pray - to stop looking for an answer to what looked like an insurmountable problem and instead listen to God's ever-present, loving guidance.

Ten minutes later, more peaceful and willing to trust God to lead us, we decided to continue hiking upward. My friend suggested we climb toward a patch of sunlight to our left. Following an initial mental battle (I wanted to go right), I agreed to follow her. After 10 minutes of crawling through some deep brush, we were on the backside - with a clear path all the way down to the bottom of the mountain.

We sang and rejoiced as we walked down; I remember feeling so exuberant and grateful. I was particularly thankful that my friend was such a good listener.

On or off the rock ledge, in any aspect of life, everyone faces difficult decisions, each of which has its own set of pros and cons. On the mountain that day, I found myself trying to choose the lesser of two evils. But when my friend and I trusted wholeheartedly in God, we were given an answer that had only pros. So now, when I feel as if I'm being forced to choose between two difficult alternatives, I take a step back and listen to what God is directing me to do - and I always discover the way out.

Because God is our Father-Mother, He loves each one of us and cares for every aspect of our being. Because of this love, we can trust God to lead us to an answer or a healing that is complete, not partial. No back-and-forth. No side effects. No cons. For me, trusting in God is not only the safest and surest way. It's the only way.

I will lift up mine eyes
unto the hills,
from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord,
which made heaven and earth.

Psalms 121:1, 2

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