Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

A Cabin, A Loft And A Troubled Heart

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published June 9, 2011

One of my favorite sayings by Jesus is very simple: “Let not your hearts be troubled.” I don’t know how many times I repeat that to myself each day, but it always helps.

You see, given my strong imagination and my rather anxious personality, I am quite skilled at pondering worse-case scenarios, and unfortunately they sometimes come true.

Take the time my husband and I headed to Franklin, N.C., to spend a weekend with my Aunt Rita and Uncle Ray in their little cabin perched atop a mountain. One of my big fears is being lost on the road. Add to that the anxiety of driving on steep mountain passes, and you’ll get a sense of how highly I value correct directions.

As my aunt began giving directions over the phone, I had the first inkling of what was to come.

“You take a left at the yellow house, the one with a birdhouse outside. Then go for a mile until you see a gray house with a clothes line.”

Here she paused to shout at my uncle, “Ray, what’s the name of the street with the gray house?”

“What gray house?” my uncle yelled back.

There ensued a heated discussion, and then my aunt finally got back on the phone.

“Uncle Ray says there’s no gray house, but there is. Just look for the clothes line.”

Needless to say, we got very lost, and I had to live out one of my big fears as we wandered for miles on winding mountain roads with no shoulders. We arrived an hour late, and my stomach fell when I spotted the cabin, which seemed to be perched so precipitously atop a mountain that it looked as if a sneeze would knock it over.

And then, as soon as we stepped inside, things rapidly went from bad to worse.

“Let me show you the loft where you can both sleep,” my aunt said.

In seconds, my 80-year-old aunt dashed up what appeared to be a combination ladder and stairway. My husband followed nimbly, with me cautiously close behind. It was steeper than any stairway I had ever climbed, but I managed to haul myself up into the loft.

After we’d admired the view, my aunt invited us to climb down and have a snack. She then descended quickly into the lower cabin, and my husband followed. When it was my turn, I realized that I was unable to begin the descent.

In fact, as I peered down the staircase, I realized I was soaked head-to-toe in perspiration and my muscles were rigid with fear.

I saw my aunt and my husband looking up at me expectantly.

“What’s the matter? Aren’t you coming down?” my aunt called.

“I’m afraid I’ll fall.”

“Just lower yourself down, one step at a time,” my husband advised.

I remembered the words of Christ about a troubled heart, but what could I do? My heart was seized with an icy trepidation and I couldn’t even take the first step. I was sure that if I did, I would careen over backwards and land on the floor with a broken neck.

As my aunt and husband continued making encouraging remarks, I knew there would be no way down unless I surrendered my fear—but from my perspective, fear was the only thing standing between me and a crippling injury.

I tried to heed their advice, but every time I attempted to put my foot in the top rung of the staircase, my survival instinct kicked in.

“You’re going to have to call the fire department,” I said weakly.

My aunt then sent my husband up.

“Just get behind her, so she’ll know you’re there in case she falls,” she advised.

Her plan worked. It was very slow going, but my husband managed to talk me down. And when I finally arrived at the foot of the stairs, I was trembling and soaked in sweat, but also deeply relieved.  Needless to say, we found somewhere else to sleep that night and I never set foot in the loft again.

The next day, I pondered the lesson of the loft. We all have fears, and some are deeply imbedded and difficult to surrender. Fortunately, though, when we’re stuck in what seems like an impossible situation, we don’t have to face it alone.

We have the words of Christ to guide us, and the hands of others to help us. That being said, I have to admit that I still avoid mountain getaways like the plague.