Daring her to jump, someone started the countdown. “3, 2, 1, jump!”
But after a moment of thought, she returned to her safe perch on the cliff as she had done repeatedly that morning, simply looking at us sheepishly as if she’d personally disappointed us.
No, she wasn’t a suicidal person. She was a reluctant diver at a swimming hole called Rainbow Pool and Waterfall outside Yosemite National Park.
It was here that my family stopped last month to grab a break from the near 100-degree heat that threatened to melt our vacation ideals.
She was a fit woman of about 40 who was trying to match wits with her daring children who had made the jump numerous times.
She had somehow worked up the nerve to climb the craggy rock and, from her perch, she entertained voices in her head that debated the safest way down. From her viewpoint, the way back seemed more dangerous than it had on the way up. Yet, the idea of making the 30-foot jump into the snowmelt below seemed to bring on terror.
Most of us can relate to this woman and have known a time where we have heard a choir of competing voices. Deciding which voice to listen to is where our toughest decisions lie.
Even Jesus had a difficult time with some of those voices. Scripture recounts such an episode when Jesus entered the desert for a time of prayer and fasting, and found himself being tested three times by the “Evil One.”
In the first temptation, the devil tried unsuccessfully to entice Jesus into breaking his fast and turning stones into bread.
But the next two temptations, like the woman’s story, take place on a precipice. From there, Jesus was shown all the kingdoms of the world and promised he’d rule those kingdoms if he’d simply worship the devil. And in the final temptation, the devil dared Jesus to jump to prove that God would save him.
In those three temptations, I suspect, like the woman, Jesus was hearing three sets of voices.
The first voice tempts us to hear only our internal voice of need. Depending solely on our own voice can put us in a place we shouldn’t be. And like the woman, we often refuse to back down and say with any kind of integrity, “I don’t belong out here standing on this ledge.”
The second voice tempts us to listen to the external voices that either flatter us onto an egotistical stage or intimidate us out onto the ledge of self-destruction.
But the third voice can be the most misleading voice of all. It’s the one that tempted Jesus to squelch the voice of God, the one who really cared for him and gave him his strength.
Without God’s voice, you’re we’re left without any kind of compass. Without God’s voice, we’re left with only ourselves as the voices of others may be just as lost as we are. But, factor in the voice of God, and we get a kind of spiritual triangulation — a kind of spiritual GPS — where we can better pinpoint the place we should be.
We left the swimming hole early that afternoon, but as I recall, the woman was still standing on that ledge, no doubt debating the voices inside her heart.
It’s truly hard to keep all these voices in check, but without the voice of God in our life, it becomes exceptionally difficult to keep our balance on life’s ledge.