I am a brave woman.
Truly, I am. There aren’t many things that frighten me. I mean, if you don’t count mice and snakes, and a few other creepy-crawly critters, I’m not scared of much.
Well, except for tornadoes and really tight spaces. And dressing room mirrors during swimsuit season. But other than those things, I’m good, except for one more teensy-tiny little fear I have.
I am afraid of heights.
Whenever I find myself at the edge of a high place I get dizzy, my heart pounds, my hands get all clammy and gross, and I can’t breathe.
I believe if God wanted us to be in high places, he wouldn’t have said, “And low, I am with you always.” So in order to stay spiritually fit and right with God, I prefer to keep both feet firmly planted on a solid, low altitude, thank you very much.
But I wasn’t thinking about my fear when I auditioned for a new role in “The Promise,” a musical presentation of the life of Christ. Singing in front of a crowd doesn’t scare me a bit. Remember? I’m brave.
You can imagine my delight when I was offered the role of Mary. That’s right. I play the Mother of God. Not the sweet young thing at the nativity . . . no, they gave that role to a fresh-faced college girl. They offered me the role of Mary at the Cross. Translation: Old Mary.
We won’t get into my feelings about that. I’m good with being labeled as old. It’s just theater. It’s not real. No reason at all to feel depressed.
At least that’s what I keep telling myself.
So as I learned my song and rehearsed my part on solid ground, I forgot one tiny little detail: Jesus was crucified on a hill.
In theater terms, that means we have a 3,200 seat amphitheater with an elevated stage. On that stage are three levels: level one is the lowest, then level 2, then level three. Built onto level three is Mount Calvary . . . fifteen feet above level three. About twenty-five feet above ground level.
On Mount Calvary are three crosses, and Jesus is crucified on the center one. Right on the edge, in the front. And since “The Promise” is in its 23rd season, more than two decades of the additional weight of that cross have caused a slight downward slope on the stage.
The first time I practiced that scene, I froze. I thought I was going to die. I felt dizzy, and I knew that before the scene was over, I’d tumble over the edge and land—splat!—in the middle of level three. There went the heart banging and the palms sweating; I couldn’t catch my breath, much less sing.
And that’s when I knew, more than I’ve ever known before, that I am unworthy. I am not deserving of the role of the mother of our Lord. It is beyond my abilities, beyond my range of possibility.
As I lay in bed that night, tossing and turning and asking God how I could gracefully resign from my role, the strangest thing happened. I told God, “I can’t do it. I just can’t. I don’t have it in me; I’m not able.”
Do you know what He said to me?
He said, “Good for you. I’m glad you understand. That’s exactly where I want you.”
What? What did He mean?
He said, “Renae, when you know you can handle things on your own, you don’t rely on Me. I want you to trust Me, not yourself.”
“But . . . God . . .”
“Okay, God . . . but—“
“Calm down. You’re going to be fine. Trust me.”
I rolled over and tried to sleep. I know God is never wrong about stuff, but I had serious doubts about his assessment of things. But I decided to trust Him, like He said.
The next night at rehearsal, I learned there was a handle screwed to the back of the cross. Right at my level. I didn’t have to balance 25 feet above safety with nothing to hold onto. I could cling to the cross.
So many things about my life leave me feeling dizzy and out of control. I feel like I’m out of my league, like I’ll land splat on my face before it’s all said and done. Why do I forget that I don’t have to do it on my own? Why do I forget that God’s given me a lifeline? When life is more than I can handle, I’m exactly where He wants me. I have a stronghold. I can cling to the cross.
“The Lord is the stronghold of my life: of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1.