Many times on the farm you’re called to do a task that you’ve never done before. Occasionally it’s risky, but somebody has to do it. Mom and Aunt Hilda’s super power has always been the ability to talk us girls into doing these type of tasks. One in particular was painting tin roofs at the Balli Farm. Making themselves feel better, they’d agreed to stand safely on the ground and keep us anchored by holding the ladders. They even sweetened the pot by convincing us we could wear bathing suits and work on our tans. There was little opportunity to consider how our peers were tanning on relaxing on coastal beaches because we were too busy risking our lives. Painting along the top ridge roll and close to the edge was the most dangerous as we couldn’t easily move the ancient roof ladder (merely a meager wooden ladder with an extra board nailed at the end to catch over the roof comb). I remember at one point holding a paint brush in one hand and leaving the ladder to shimmy like a monkey to the edge and paint a hard-to-reach spot. Looking back, it’s a miracle we didn’t get hurt. The only casualty from that task was our sunbathing experience. Of course working atop giant sun reflectors all day, we got sun-burned…except for the spots that were covered by the thick silver aluminum fiber paint. One thing to note about my cousin Brenda and me, we were not neat girls, so you can imagine after cleaning off with gasoline, we had a good laugh admiring our red and white polka dot “tans”.
There is real danger when living on the edge but half the battle is identifying it. When our daughter, Alex, was little and first moved to her “big-girl” bed we had a mesh net attachment that fit under the mattress on one side to prevent her from rolling off when she slept. She looked at it fearfully and finally asked, “Why do you put that net up? What are you trying to keep out of my bed?” She didn’t understand the protection or the danger of falling off the edge…and sometimes I bet we don’t either.
That same little girl fearful of imaginary monsters under her bed matured, and learned discernment and bravery along the way. She jumped (voluntarily) out of an airplane for her 18th birthday. When asked if she was scared, she said not until she was right at the edge ready to jump. Again, it’s the edge that gets us.
Last Sunday after church we lingered and talked to a beautiful grandmother, discussing the breathtaking photos her grandson in Arizona posts on social media…multi-colored canyons and wind-cut rock formations against perfect blue skies… The grandma shook her head telling us how she shudders each time she sees him close to the edge of a cliff, and he always dismisses her concern with an “I’ll be fine. I know what I’m doing!” Maybe it was because we were in the Lord’s house, but I immediately felt a little self-conscience wondering how many times I’ve said the same thing to God.
Living on the edge requires equal amounts of discernment and bravery…and trust. We must listen to the voice of wisdom drawing us back a few steps when we get too close. Or maybe we have to bravely take that next step. Just like my daughter Alex sky-diving in tandem with a professional, the good news is we don’t have to take that leap of faith alone. Isaiah 41:13 “For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” It’s comforting to realize even if we don’t know what we are doing all the time, like two country girls on a hot tin roof, there is Someone who does.
Janet Cowger- Fliegel