Saturday, December 16, 2017

Of Landings and Stair Lifts

I delight in follow-up ideas especially when they come from the viewers of my blog. Here's one packed with potential that came from a fellow writer. Let's try to unpack it a bit...

“I just read your most recent blog "A View Up the Staircase." Once again you have written something that I too have had in my writer's head, but have not yet put into words on paper or on my computer. Many times I've referred to my life as a journey up a flight of stairs. At times when I think I just can't climb one more step, God provides a landing place for me to rest, recuperate, and rejuvenate. Once again I can resume the climb never knowing what's ahead or how long it will be before there will be another landing place.”

I have such a staircase in my home, the dark oak steps are wide, it has a sturdy banister (too fancy to be called a “railing”) and it has a landing half way up. Being a nonagenarian, I'm thankful for that “rest stop” on my staircase to the next level. It is like the green comfort places beckoning us to stop and stretch our legs and refresh ourselves after long drives on a freeway. It's a pause, not a full stop.

God provides landings like that at intervals in our lives or we would be overwhelmed by the length of our way Home. Some of us need to or should look for such landing places daily. In His tender loving-kindness He doesn't tell us in advance how far it is to the top or how steep it's going to be. We might chicken out and balk at taking even the first step. Landing places on our climb are a token of His mercy and love. Only He knows the plans He has for us, for good and not for evil. (Jer. 29:11) Jesus invites us to come unto Him, all who are weary and heavy laden. (Matt. 11:28) It's difficult enough to try to manage the climb unencumbered, but more often than not He has providentially given us various and sundry burdens, our own or those of others, to carry which weigh us down. We need the landings to restore our souls and our bodies and gain the big perspective. I have friends who have even placed a chair and some potted plants or an artificial tree on their stair landing to make those pauses seem like an oasis in the desert. A landing is not a place to camp permanently, just a respite, a timeout to catch our breath and renew our resolve to make it to the top.

God has compassion on those who are handicapped, calendar challenged, suffer from COPD, or struggle to make the climb in their own strength. Most of us have seen the TV ads for the “chair lifts” which attach to the staircase.
One can sit in comfort and safety strapped in and with a push of the button ascend to your destination. “And you keep calmly ascending even if there's a power outage due to a storm” some disembodied voice assures us. There are times when even the ablest among us needs a spiritual chair lift as a boost during our times of human weakness.

Instead of climbing the stairs, take an escalator if available? By taking that first step and then standing still we can be effortlessly taken up to the next level. Well, that's not exactly the way it is in the Christian life. We are responsible to exercise our wills and the energy God provides to attain the goal He sets before us.

Staircases, of course, are simply a modern version of a primitive ladder. That requires that we hold on tight to the sides of the ladder to maintain our scary balance as we climb. To go up the ladder is somewhat easier than trying to descend again. In our life climb there is no backward descent. We are committed—no turning back. It gives us some assurance if there is a trusted friend holding the bottom of the ladder securely and a friend at the top encouraging the climber, applauding his efforts, allaying his fears and welcoming him when at last he reaches the top. What a comforting analogy that God is with us at the beginning of our life climb, holding the ladder steady and also welcoming us when we reach our Summit.

There are also free standing circular staircases sometimes right in the middle of a room where you climb around and around instead of going straight up. First you seem to be going in one direction, then another, not realizing that you are making progress and eventually you emerge at the next level. Trust the architect who designed such amazing marvels! It's not a good idea to look down or look back if you tend to get dizzy. The apostle Paul put it into perspective: “I press on...forgetting what lies behind...reaching forward to what lies ahead toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12-14). In life, God is that Architect and we must trust Him even though we are woozy from going in circles. Life often throws us curves. We seldom have a straight, plain vanilla, uneventful, predictable upward climb.

Success in whatever way God has ordained us to climb our staircase of life is assured if we “keep our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith” who cheers us on to “run with endurance [climb with endurance] the race [the staircase] that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1, 2).

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