Yesterday (Tuesday) our 21-year-old daughter fell off a cliff.
We got a call from the Dean of her college telling us that “rescue crews were on the way and we know she’s conscious.” The next couple of hours were terrifying and yet we knew God was watching over her. He knew every one of her days before one of them came to be.
She has a favorite spot to go pray. Her college is on the top of a mountain. Covenant College, on top of Lookout Mountain. She’s walked this trail hundreds of times the past three years. On her way back to class, she slipped on wet, muddy ground and fell. She slid through steep, rocky brush about fifteen feet then dropped thirty feet. Forty plus feet down she caught a tree in her armpit. Or, as she put it, the tree caught her. She clung to the tree and stood on a tiny ledge, a rock that jutted out from the cliff, with only one shoe on (the other shoe fell to ground, 80 feet below her) for the next few hours.
There on a two foot wide ledge she clung to a tree. For more than three hours.
She stayed calm. Pulled her phone out of her pocket and called for help. She stayed on the phone until help arrived (it was back in her pocket for safe keeping and on speaker).
When I called she answered and calmly told me, “I’m okay, mom. I’ll be back on campus in a few minutes. Don’t worry. I only fell a little ways.”
She was holding on for dear life, on the side of a cliff, 40 plus feet down, with only a tiny ledge under her feet. If she let go or slipped, she’d fall another 60-80 feet. Yet she cared for me, that I not freak out. She knew I have lost a son and could easily panic. So she told me a lie; she told me she would be back on campus in no time. Which I suppose was not actually a lie, though she couldn’t have known for sure at that moment.
Rescue workers repelled to her, got her in a harness, and hoisted her back to solid ground then helped her to the waiting ambulance. Her big sister was there, anticipating her return to safety. She was checked out at the hospital and given pain meds. (No broken bones, no internal injuries. Just very sore all over.) Her daddy flew out to be with her.
Here’s the deal: She fell. And then she clung to a tree. She stood firmly on the rock ledge. And even in her terrifying trial she cried out for help and cared about the well-being of others. When help arrived in the form of experienced climbers, she listened to them and obeyed their instructions. She had faith that she was going to be okay. Even if she fell to her death, she was sure she would be okay. She knows her Heavenly Father. She knows she has eternal life in Christ.
Sometimes we make poor choices, or we sin. Our own actions can cause us to fall. Sometimes the action of others cause us to fall; they intentionally or unintentionally cause us harm. But sometimes bad stuff just happens. We live in a broken, fallen world and bad things happen. In this case, no one did wrong to cause the accident. It just happened. She fell. Then she did all the next right things.
I want to be like this 21-year-old woman who calls me mom. I want to handle terrifying trials like she did. With calm faith.
But do I?
In my trials do I cling to a tree? Do I cling to the tree on which Jesus died? The Cross of Christ?
Do I stand on the Rock? On my faith and the Word of God? Do I stand on what I know to be true about God?
Do I humbly cry out to God for help? Do I humbly call others in the Body to help me? Or do I whimper in pain and despair, alone?
When help arrives do I listen and follow their instructions? When those who come to help say, “We’ve seen others fall. We’ve helped them back to the mountain top. We can help you, too,” do I listen? Do I submit to them out of reverence for Christ?
Do I care for others even while I suffer and cling to the Cross for dear life? Or am I self-centered and self-absorbed? Do I “in humility consider others more important” than myself? Do I look not only to my own interests but also to the interests of others?
Most importantly, am I sure that I will be okay whether God rescues me from my circumstances or even if He allows me to fall to my death? Am I convinced that He will keep my life both now and forevermore?
This morning my daughter had breakfast with her daddy; my sweet husband had flown to Chattanooga to care for her. She’s very sore and will take time to rest and to heal.
She has a cool story to tell, a terrifying but true story of falling of a cliff and being rescued.
I am grateful to not be planning a funeral today. I am grateful for the rescue crew.
But mostly I’m grateful for a loving, compassionate God who knows my daughter and loved us enough to send His Son to die that I and my children may live eternally with Him.
Here is a link to the news story.