Radical Hope: One Reason to Step Off a Cliff

Jared and the Climbing Rope

Stepping Back, Leaning Out, Trusting

As a tween age girl I fell in love with repelling off cliffs. I climbed into the harness and wrapped the rope through pulleys. At the top the rope was anchored into solid rock. Knowledgeable adults at both the top and bottom of the rock face wrapped the rope around themselves so that they could guide my descent. Terror preceded thrill. Each repel started as I stood with my back to the drop-off and stepped back, leaning out, trusting that the taut rope would hold me. After that first step I bounced and jumped all the way, feeling the rush of flight, hollering whoops of delight. I let the rope slide through my fingers, feeling its security, totally at rest because the thick rope was safely anchored and I was held by it.

stepping off the cliff

Cord of Hope

One Hebrew word the Bible uses for hope comes from a root word that literally means cord. Every person on earth anchors our cord of hope to something or someone each day. We step backwards off the cliff of uncontrollable circumstance.

Anchored to the Rock

My love for repelling ended suddenly one evening in Rocky Mountain National Park. My family arrived hoping to spot beavers swimming and splashing near their lake lodges. Just as we were setting off, emergency vehicles flew into the parking lot, lights and sirens splintering the serene dusk that had felt so safe a moment before. We asked questions and waited, knots in our stomachs as mountain rescue teams attempted to save the life of a college age woman who had fallen from a cliff while climbing with her boyfriend. She’d slipped, and the pitons holding her rope weren’t anchored into the rock firmly enough stop her fall. Night fell dark and thick around us. A helicopter landed. Rescuers unloaded the young woman’s broken body, a bag zipped all the way over her head. I was never interested in leaning back on a rope and stepping off a rock face after that.

The Thread to Hang By

rapelling photo


We harness ourselves with a rope of hope daily.

We hope our kids will love God and live right.

We hope our marriage will be happy and satisfying.

We hope our retirement accounts will grow.

We hope the biopsy will come back negative.

We think that faith in God means that he will give us all our hopes tied up in a pretty package. One day, to our dismay, hopes shatter like glass. The kids break our hearts. The spouse walks away. The economy falters. The doctor asks us to come in to the office. We land crushed in body and spirit at the floor of the cliff.  We feel alone even though no one gets through life on this planet without some crushed hopes.

Hope is good, but hopes are no place to tie the thread we plan to hang by.

 In his book, Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer, David Steindl-Rast says “It makes a world of difference where we put our weight – on those hopes out there ahead of us, or on ‘the hope that is within.’” (Gratefulness, p. 45)

Radical Hope

There is a massive difference between hoping for good things and placing our hope in the one from whom all good things come.

God loves to surprise his children with good things. He is a God of hope.

At times God wraps his gifts in unattractive packaging.  Gifts sometimes look like disasters.

Only he is solid enough to anchor our hope when disaster strikes.  A radically hopeful person makes sure the cord of hope is solidly anchored to God and not to good things. She hangs on tight, trusting the giver, and without regard for her trembling knees, backs off the cliff.

A version of this post was previously posted on bethratzlaff.com in June 2012.

Beth-on-Longs-Peak corrected

Beth on Longs Peak at 13


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One Response to Radical Hope: One Reason to Step Off a Cliff

  1. Merrie Lea February 4, 2015 at 8:04 am #

    Really enjoy your posts. Thank you!

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