How far down is up?

face down

I think we’ve all had it. That dream. You know, when you either dream you’re falling and are about to hit the ground when you both jolt awake and feel impact at exactly the same time; or in your dream you trip and your whole body convulses to mimic what would have happened had the dream actually been real and we had crumpled to the ground.   Somehow, our brains and our bodies are programmed and wired not to let us actually hit bottom in our dreams. We get super close to hitting but somehow never do.

It’s too bad that that never hitting the ground is just in dreams, that the inability to actually hit the ground isn’t a real-life phenomenon. I can personally attest to the impact of “deceleration trauma” (to borrow a phrase from 1986’s “Running Scaredcheck it out on Netflix) in life, as my pride has stopped me from being able to avoid contact with the ground.

Painfully, this was my reflection this week as I read through Psalms 46 – 51 and Proverbs 8. The passage in Psalms 51:8-12 was especially on point for me …

Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.

My road to knowing Christ was marked with a variety of hazards. All self-induced of course. While most of my life, I was pretty driven and together, I played things pretty dangerously from a behavioral and life-choice perspective many times. For much of my life I never was forced to pay the proverbial piper for those choices, but eventually, the fall to ground ensued. I wish I would say that in all cases, I stopped myself from hitting the ground, but ultimately health issues arose for which I wasn’t able to stop before hitting the ground. The impact? Yeah, it was pretty damaging. Probably the most difficult part of not having control of all aspects of our lives is the realization itself. But perhaps the most important aspect of hitting the ground is that once we do, there’s nowhere to look but up. All the way up. For me, gratefully, that look up allowed me to finally see and seek a relationship with God. But it doesn’t negate the impact of hitting the ground, of being face down with nowhere to look but up.

For many of us life is a bumpy ride.  It can take some ugly downward spiraling turns before we realize we’re in trouble.  Some of us need to actually hit the ground before we realize we’ve crashed. But the question we all must wrestle with is exactly how far down is up? That is, how far must we fall in life before we finally look up … up to the only Source of safety, up to the only Person who can not only help us stop falling before we make impact with the ground, but who can also ensure we rise far, far above the circumstances causing us to fall in the first place. It would be great if we would choose to look up far before hitting ground. Unfortunately, too few of us do.

It’s like having a parachute on, but refusing to pull the ripcord because in our pride we want to “stop ourselves,” or don’t really feel like we’ll fall all the way down, that we won’t make impact, or that impact won’t hurt. Trust me … it hurts. It hurts big. Perhaps some of you understand that too.

The thing is, we don’t have to hit the ground. As the Psalmist pleads in the passage above, God stands constantly at the ready to rescue us long before we do damage to ourselves. And it is self-inflicted damage. We don’t have to wait like I did until I was face-down in the dirt … we can stop the fall beforehand, we can call out to God who catches us when we’re falling, or we can choose not to fall in the first place. Even if we do, though, and even if we do find ourselves where I found myself … damaged goods on the ground looking up … our Father is loving and merciful and once we choose to look up, He’ll pick us up and dust us off and send us back into life.

So how far down will we choose to allow ourselves to be before we look up? My prayer for us is that we’ll look up far before impact on the ground, avoiding the pain and destruction of hitting. Let’s seek God this week and ask His blessing and the ability to stop ourselves or ask for Him to catch us long beforehand. Let’s not get all the way down before we finally choose to look up.

Soli Deo gloria!




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