When we were kids, five of us, four boys and a sister, our backyard was a special place. In summer we played test cricket, a few neighbours in the team. In winter we kicked the football around. Two forked clothes props were goal posts. In both seasons aware of mum’s kitchen window.
Against the back fence was a one-way ladder, which was the entry to the state school. The older ones had left, and it was my turn to climb over. An exciting day. Lots of kids to play with; friends to make. It was great, except for one family, who ruled the yard. If you messed with one, you took on the others. Issues were settled behind the shelter shed. But a fight brought a crowd and the noise brought a teacher. Both lads were sent to the head and punished. I thought of the backyard ladder, but it played against them in a local football competition. The umpire settled on the field issues.
I found I had many ladders to climb as I grew up. Challenging educational experiences and social encounters. The university, National Service training, a first job. Marriage and family. Death of loved parents, and friends too young to die, success, disappointment and failure. Confronting cancer. Much to be thankful for. All one-way ladders.
In the Bible, there are stories about people with ladders to climb, and how they coped with them.
Jacob, facing the huge task of leadership, lay down one night and dreamed of a stairway leading up to heaven. Angels were going up and down. God was beside him and said to Jacob “Remember, I will be with you and protect you wherever you go”.
Joseph, the favourite son, had many bridges to cross, and ladders to climb on the journey to becoming chief minister to Pharaoh in Egypt, and saving lives in a terrible drought. Hated by his brothers, for his words and dreams, and favouritism with his father. Out in the fields one day, he was beaten by his brothers, thrown into a pit, sold into slavery in Egypt. Falsely accused of having an affair with an Egyptian captain’s wife, he was manacled in chains, and thrown into prison. Finally, due to his skill in interpreting the king’s dream, about an approaching famine, he was put in charge of storing enough grain to feed the people, including his own family, during seven years of famine. He was lead to forgive and be reconciled with his brothers, bringing them, and his blind father, to settle safely in Egypt.
The Psalmist notes that God allowed all this to happen to Joseph, in order that God could put “iron into the soul”. I shall always be grateful for family, friends and teachers of life, who accompanied and supported me, as I climbed the ladders ahead. Because of them, I sense a little iron in the soul. Nor do I forget the little Church on the hill, which introduced me to the One who walked beside the heroes of faith, ordinary and famous.
Bill Pugh is a writer and retired minister from Leighmoor Uniting Church.
Image by Astrid Westvang via Flickr.