February 24, 2012 by Jay Helms
I had seen this exact spot on video a few times before. I wondered whether it was as breathtaking as Rick Steves said it was.
Now, as I stood at the bottom of the staircase, I was terrified!
Rarely have I felt so utterly mortal, tiny, and helpless (unable to control, contain, or manipulate the world by the power of my own will) as I did right then.
“There is no way on planet earth I’m walking on those steps,” I said to myself. I was frozen in place, 12,602 feet above sea-level.
My mind was literally overwhelmed by the choice before me. I’m not exaggerating when I say that. To make matters more complicated, my 8 year old daughter was with me. The experience was so strange that it is hard to describe. Rarely has my brain ever been so acutely taxed in an attempt to reconcile the stimuli of my surroundings with the possible dangers and incredible payoffs of my actions. It was truly difficult to make a wise decision in that moment. In some corner of my mind I knew I had to walk up the stairs. And I knew I would survive and I knew it would be worth it a hundred times over.
Want to see what exactly all the fuss is about? This is the staircase I’m talking about…
Big deal, you say?
OK, look closer, notice anything unique about these steps?
Can’t put it together? OK, does this picture help…this is the staircase I am talking about.
This staircase is bolted to the side of a mountain and you can see all the way through the open metal stairs to the valley floor 9,000 feet below!
Go try it with your own young child sometime and see if you have a similar experience. The view through the stairs and over the side of the railing was so exhilarating and overwhelming I refused even to hold my camera over the side and take a picture of it. It was just too frightening to do…all I could imagine was that in the process of taking a picture I would somehow manage to trip or slip on the stairs and fall a long way to my death with loved ones helplessly watching. That is the ONLY thing I could see in my mind’s eye when I thought of stopping to snap a pic. Needless to say, I do not have a picture of that view.
Here are two more pictures that give some perspective on what’s so unique about this experience. This is a full shot of us on the stairs. The valley floor was so far directly below our feet that my wife Carla could not even get it in this picture with us. Notice we are located at a higher altitude than the steep, jagged peaks to the right…
And here is the view straight down to the valley floor 9,000 feet below, taken from a safer place on the viewing platform that was at the top of the staircase…
So do you believe my description of the weight I felt as I stood at the stairs now?
Standing there at the bottom of the stairs I knew that many, many people had been up and down those exact stairs and had lived to tell the story and show the pictures from the top of the mountain. In fact, I had just witnessed that reality with my very eyes.
In the end, I trusted that it would be worth walking each fearful step up and down those insane stairs. It was. The view was utterly magnificent…as incredible as anything I have ever witnessed.
On a clear day, you can see all the way to The Matterhorn in Switzerland from the top.
My life feels just like the staircase right now. I think walking up these stairs is what it looks like to be a disciple of Jesus. As I write this, it feels just like I am walking slowly up the staircase, with a firm grip on the hand rail…make that two firm grips on the hand rails…trusting the one who made the stairs. Surprisingly, I have found that peace can be had while walking these steps, so high above the valley floor…steps that expose my utterly mortality, tinyness, and helplessness (inability to control, contain, or manipulate the world by the power of my own will). I am honestly trusting that the risk of following Jesus where he is leading me has a payoff beyond anything this world has to offer me.
“Cast all your anxieties and cares onto Christ, for he cares for you…after you have suffered a little while, he himself will restore, support, and strengthen you, and He will place you on a firm foundation. (1 Peter 5:7, 10)
“Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. (Psalm 27:13, 14)
Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. (John 12:24)
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you hope, and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
May it be so, Lord.