By: Ivonne J. Hernandez
I’ve never been a sporty or outdoor person. As some of you know, I suffer from a progressive neuromuscular condition called Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease (CMT). Although I was born with CMT, it was not until I was 40 years old that I received a diagnosis. Growing up, I just thought I was clumsy, slow and uncoordinated…which I was, but I did not know there was a medical reason for my difficulties. One day, when I was a teenager, my family went on a day trip to El Yunque rain-forest, which we would do every few years. We would usually walk a short distance down a paved path to a picnic shelter area and spend the day grilling and playing games. This day however, someone had the idea that we should go on a hike up the mountain and take in some of the majestic views from high above. My mom’s husband was a big strong guy, and he said he would help me along on the trail. I do not remember all the details, but I have a feeling there was quite a bit of cajoling going on. If I didn’t go, someone would have to stay with me and miss all the fun.
We started going up this trail alongside the mountain and I started to notice the people that were coming down on the opposite direction; their shoes and legs were muddy, and it looked like they had been “through hell”. The path began to narrow and become steep, muddy and slippery. My eyes were on the path one second, and on the precipice below the next. I was having some serious second thoughts about the wisdom of my decision to join this adventure. I expressed my concerns to my fellow travelers but was “encouraged” to keep going… everything was going to be ok. The scariest moments where when there were gaps on the path that we had to step over. I remember inching along, holding on to my mom’s husband’s hand and keeping my back close to the side of the mountain, until we reached a breach that was too big for me to walk over. It required a leap. I remember a hand from the other side inviting me to trust, but I could not. One wrong step, one slip, and I would be dead, so I just froze. Much to everyone’s disappointment, I was not able to be persuaded to conquer my fears that day and we had to turn around.
God reminded me of this memory recently, as I was grappling with fear over a decision I was trying to make. As grown ups in charge of others, we often have to make difficult decisions, decisions that involve serious consequences for us and those we love. And sometimes, in the process of discerning the path to follow, we can feel fear over the unknown, fear of what may happen if we make the wrong choice. But, in my experience, the fear is only one side of the equation. On the other side of the tension is a voice that says: Come, “for I know well the plans I have in mind for you... plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope” (Jer 29:11).
As we stand on the edge of the breach, if we look up, we will see God’s hand inviting us to take a leap of faith and trust in Him. “Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (Is 41:10). But when we are in that moment of tension, that moment of decision, the fear can be so loud that we find it difficult to listen to the still small voice inside us saying, “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:11). Our eyes remain fixed on the precipice below rather than on the hand above.
That day on our hike through the rain-forest, I let fear control me. I did not trust I had the strength and balance needed to make the leap, or that my mom’s husband would be able to bring me safely to the other side. I missed out on a wonderful experience, and, because of my fears, others missed out on the experience too. Just like the beautiful views that would reward those who persevered along the hike, when God calls, it is because He has something amazing waiting for us on the other side. He who quiets the storm will quiet the storm in our hearts and give us His outstretched hand, inviting us to trust in Him and just take the leap.