There were several reasons why I wanted to visit O’Reilly’s in the Lamington National Park and was willing to travel the “long and winding road” to get there.
For one thing, there was the promise of spectacular views and breathtaking scenery.
Another incentive was the fact that there was a little slice of history surrounding this particular place, which involved a brave rescue of the only two survivors of the Stinson plane crash in 1937.
But the main reason I wanted to make the trek was to finally have the opportunity to take the rainforest walk I’d heard so much about.
What made the walk so appealing was the fact that it wasn’t along the forest floor, but instead was up above the canopy. In fact, right among the tree tops.
My sister, Diane, had mentioned it some years ago, after having made the walk with her family and it was something that I definitely wanted to see for myself. After all, there’s nothing like a good bush walk through God’s magnificent creation, to stir the soul.
Now I’m not totally sure what I expected, but I know for a fact that my imagination had built something way more substantial than the real thing. Perhaps something more along the lines of a board walk set firmly on solid wooden poles, gently making a path over the treetops in a totally secure and fixed position.
Yes, that’s definitely what I’d had in mind and that very idyllic image stayed with me until just before my great bridge encounter. The first inkling that perhaps my expectation didn’t quite match with reality came when my Step-mother, Dorothy, made the comment that she didn’t particularly enjoy the sensation of walking on the bridge.
There was also Dorothy’s gentle warning to all, that any form of bridge jumping or shaking would not be appreciated.
At first sight, the bridge didn’t look too bad, although it certainly wasn’t the rock solid structure I’d hoped for. Even stepping out onto the first span wasn’t all that horrifying, although the signs warning visitors not to overload each section made me just a little nervous. However, every family member was on their best behaviour and resisted the temptation to do any of the previously forbidden jiggling, shaking or rocking activities.
Half way across the first section, reality bit!
Maybe I’ve just seen way too many Indiana Jones movies to ever be able to take any form of suspension bridge in my stride. Then again, maybe it has more to do with my great love for having both feet securely planted on terra firma and passionate dislike for heights. After all, I’m the girl who can’t climb more than two and a half rungs on a ladder without freezing into immobility and almost needing to be carried in a fireman’s hold back to the ground.
Even reaching the first stable platform, which connected one span of the bridge to another, only gave me a minimal sense of safety. As I clung to the huge telegraph pole that poked through the decking, my Dad made the comment, “Holding the bridge up are you?”
And I’d thought I was being nonchalant!
As the eight of us stood on the teensy, tiny deck, my two younger sisters went scampering up the metal rungs of a ladder, which took them right to the top of one particularly towering tree. In the meantime I just held onto my “security pole” and tried to keep my toes from curling.
The second span was even higher than the first, but I was determined to not let it get the better of me.
“For goodness sake woman, get a grip!” &nbps;I silently berated myself. After all, the bridge was walked across by many people every day and was completely safe. I’d simply let myself become foolishly overwhelmed by the slight sway of the hanging structure and the great height above the ground.
Gathering all my courage, I even stopped momentarily, braced my feet and lifted my camera to take a photo. Since I was never going to pass this way again, I felt it certainly needed to have something to mark the occasion.
Unfortunately, the slightest movement sent my hands flying back to the strong rope rails and made me continue my knee shaking way along the wooden planks.
Finally, as the end came into view, I quickened my pace and, with heart pounding, stepped off the bridge and back onto solid ground.
As my breathing settled back into a normal rhythm, the rest of the family arrived and the look in Matt’s eyes almost screamed, “Wow! Let’s do that again!”
Taking one last look at the walk we’d just taken, I shook my head and categorically stated, “No way!”
Fear. It sneaks up on us when we least expect it, grabbing hold of our internal organs and squeezing them into overdrive. It causes our brain to imagine things that are virtually impossible and has the power to either paralyse us into inactivity or make us run for our lives.However, not all fear of this kind is bad. It can actually be a normal response to a real threat and because of that, is vital for self-preservation. It has the very important purpose of making us recognise danger and then ensures that we take appropriate measures for safety.
The trouble comes when we allow the self-preservation response to grip us over things that actually have little or no potential danger – such as tree top walks on very well built suspension bridges.
When we consider how detrimental irrational fear is to progress and good emotional health, it’s very little wonder that the Bible has so many references to the need for us not to be afraid. Jesus, Himself, exhorted His disciples to not let fear take a hold of their hearts when He said:
Fear is a thief. When I allowed it into my mind on that bridge at O’Reilly’s, I gave it permission to steal my enjoyment of what should have been a very pleasant experience.
When it involves a physical thing or circumstance, that’s bad enough. But when it robs us of our peace, security, hope and faith, it’s even worse. It even has the power to steal our potential. It would probably be very sad to know just how many men and women have failed to step into the plans and purposes God has for their lives, simply because they were afraid.
Each of us will face our own bridges in life and how we approach them will have a lot to do with our attitude, but even more so, on whether we’re holding the hand of the One who gives us perfect peace and strength.
If we are, then when those tremors of fear begin to rise, we won’t turn back and we won’t be frozen into immobility. Instead, we’ll just cross that bridge when we come to it.
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