Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Fearful Side of Real Faith

Last Sunday I did something I would never normally do. I went and rode the world’s tallest swing carrousel. I didn’t let myself think about it at all as I did it. I just walked up, bought a ticket and got on. If I had thought about it I would not have done it, and I wanted the experience. I can now say that I have been suspended over 350 feet in the air by chains no bigger around than my finger and spun in a big circle at about 65 miles per hour. At that height I am told I would have cleared the Statue of Liberty.

How was it? Terrifying. I am scared of heights, but usually don’t have a problem with rides. You don’t have time to be scared. You are strapped in tight. This was as close to sitting in a folding chair hanging by chains that are smaller than your average swing-set as you can get. They start by raising the swings about 30 meters high—so you can clear the surrounding buildings—and then they start to spin. As you spin around they slowly, torturously, raise the swings up the full length of the 383 foot tower and let you drink in the entire view of Vienna.

Well, that is the theory. For me I had to work—for the first time in my life—to not have a full on panic attack. About 3 times on the way up I had to simply close my eyes and breathe. After a while I was able to get used to the feeling, but I never lost the instinctive sensation that I was moments away from death. By the time we got to the top I was able to keep my eyes open and even look straight down, but it was a level of self-control that I have never had to employ.

Rationally I never thought I was in any real danger, but every feeling I had was a panic of the threat of imminent painful, terrible death. I like to think that I was exhibiting a high level of courage, but what I really was experiencing was a good picture of faith.

I have often told people that true faith is not accepting an idea, but rather placing your life in the trust that what you believe about reality is true. The typical illustration is that you believe a chair will hold your weight by actually sitting in it. That is not really good enough. If a chair breaks all you may risk is a sore backside. This exercise was a much better illustration. If this chair or the chain holding it had failed to support me I would have surely died.

It was a revelation. In the beginning before you have much experience of how reliable God is, true, Biblical faith is a scary thing to accept.

(The pictures are not mine.  If you click on them it should direct you to the original site.)

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