Have you seen the poster of the frazzled kitty barely hanging onto the branch by the tip of his claws? The caption? “Hang in there!”
My brother Mark gave a vivid demonstration of “hanging in there” on their trip to Mount Rushmore several months ago.
Near Mount Rushmore is an outside activity park that features a variety of zip lines. The family completed several courses working their way through rope obstacles to get to the next platform where they then progressed to the next station.
As the end of day neared, the kids said, “Let’s do one more,” so Mark gave in and they encountered the highest platform and longest zip line so far. Mark’s 13-year-old son jumped off and zipped effortlessly to the next platform. So did his 11-year-old daughter. Both landed nicely, turned and waved.
Mark leaped and glided through the air, going about 35 mph. He zipped the same way he zipped all afternoon but this time, he gave his kids a basic physics lesson: a body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. Instead of landing on the platform, he slammed into the wooden deck, bloodying his shins with a painful landing.
Then, he started easing backwards until he stopped right in the middle of the line, suspended about 40 feet in the air. There he was, hanging by his harness while the whole park watched this drama unfold. He sagged and swayed with no momentum to get back to either end.
About that time, Mark’s wife, Tracy Anne, who skipped this final run to find the rest room, exited and made her way to the observation station. Suddenly, she noticed some man hanging in the sky and people standing around looking up at him.
“Is that my husband up there?” she said out loud.
“Oh, we’ve been watching him for some time,” a total stranger said. “Put this on YouTube and make him famous.”
At the beginning of this excursion, the park employee giving zip line orientation said that if you got stuck, pull yourself hand over hand to the next station. It didn’t occur to Mark that the line was steel and he had no gloves but he was stuck and had nowhere else to go. So he started pulling himself toward the end, arm over arm, getting closer and closer, biceps bulging like Bruce Willis.
His daughter Sally called, “You can do it, Daddy! You’re almost there!” Yet the closer Mark got, the more his body weight affected the angle of the cable. Finally nearing the platform, he struggled to pull himself straight up.
He strained and groaned but his bare hands couldn’t take it any longer and he lost his grip, slipping right back to where he started. The crowd on the ground moaned in sympathy.
He caught his breath and reminded himself that his kids were watching and his macho-man status was at stake, so again he started pulling himself hand over hand, yard by yard, across the cable.
About that time, a park employee scampering toward his station called out, “Don’t worry, sir, I will rescue you.” Earlier, Mark observed the staff practicing rescues, watching them maneuver their way to the victim, wrapping their legs around them and then dragging them back to safety.
Fearing this fate, Mark again began pulling himself hand over hand more frantically. This time, he had the benefit of previous experience. He got close enough for the park employee to throw a rope with a carabiner hook attached. Mark found his hook, not at belt-level where it was supposed to be, but under his neck. They finally connected and Mark was pulled to safety.
Only, they were just halfway through the course. They had to zip their way through to the end. Mark’s adventure gave new meaning to what it means to hang in there. As Paul wrote in Romans 5:3, “tribulation produces perseverance.” James 1:3 reads “the testing of your faith produces patience” (perseverance).
Perseverance means steadfastness, endurance, or patient enduring. This word describes the person who is not swayed by even the greatest trials and sufferings and who faithfully keeps on keeping on in God’s strength, whether clinging to a zip line or facing the next storm that comes along.