While traversing glaciers, alpine climbers carry an ice ax in their uphill hand while holding the rope in the other. The ax is a tool not just for climbing but also for stopping or "arresting" a climber should he or she begin to fall. The first time I climbed at altitude, we spent a day practicing ice ax arrests by sliding down a small glacier on our backs, head first, then feet first. When the guide called out, we were to flip into arrest position and hold on really tight.
This training is a prerequisite to climbing higher on the mountain where terrain is more difficult and crevasses abound.
I once read in a mountaineering book that after you've fallen 10 feet, you weigh twice as much as when you first fall, and after falling 20 feet, it's as if you weigh 1,000 pounds. So stopping oneself quickly is very important.
I've thought of this several times when I find myself falling – mentally, that is – with the feeling that God is not in control. With years of experience, I now recognize the wisdom of stopping the fall as quickly as possible.
This image helped me immensely over the holidays last year. Holidays are a wonderful time, but they can also be challenging. Gathering with family and friends is a joy, but the blending of traditions, opinions, and expectations can be demanding. Last year at this time I found myself on the slippery slope of self-pity. The pressure of caring for everyone seemed a bit much.
I'd been on this slope before, and many other slopes of "self" – self-will, self-love, self-righteousness. I've learned that they never lead to healing.
In this case, experience and discipline prevailed, and my train of thought was quickly arrested with this biblical promise: "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem" (Isa. 66:13). In the midst of all the demands, I felt the comfort of divine Love, my Mother who cares for all my own and everyone else's needs.
I like to begin each day understanding in a fresh way God's control of my life and the lives of those around me. To do this, I read from the Bible and the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy. These books help me understand that there is more to our true being than meets the eye. God fashions His creation out of His own beautiful qualities of goodness, and His creation consists of spiritual substance. I use the laws of God's unfailing goodness to stop my thought when it's spiraling downward. This seems easy in the quiet of the morning before the sun comes up. But then as the day begins, news on TV and things in my life or family will argue otherwise.
A case in point over Christmas: a relative was coming to visit, whom I've never had a relaxed relationship with. While we've always been polite, for a number of all too familiar reasons, it's never been easy having her around.
Standing on another one of those slippery slopes – this time, self-justification – this sentence from Science and Health kept me looking toward God and His government. It says, "Divine Science, the Word of God, saith to the darkness upon the face of error, 'God is All-in-all,' and the light of ever-present Love illumines the universe" (p. 503). To me, "the face of error" meant whatever error I was facing. Mrs. Eddy described "error" in part as "that which seemeth to be and is not" (p. 472). I also read Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. This tuned and toned my thought to see more of spiritual creation rather than to see mortals in conflict.
It turned out to be a delightful visit with genuine love expressed by both of us. Letting God's word, instead of error, speak to me freed us from tension and friction.
When we turn to God, Love does illumine our path. When we let His wisdom guide us, we stay off the slippery slopes. But even if you feel your thought slipping downward, His love is present to arrest your fall and set you on your way.