Thursday, June 24, 2010

A ladder and a rose...

My husband brought the rickety looking wooden ladder from the shed and placed it against the side of the house where it extended several feet above the roof. He had purchased this particular ladder at a yard sale for a pittance several years ago. He just couldn’t resist the old relic. Now, he ran his fingers over the weathered old rungs where the endless march of feet scaling the ladder had worn grooves into the rungs. He looked at me, already knowing my thoughts.

“Well, honey, just think of all the people who have climbed this ladder, attained new heights, and worked hard to keep things in good repair.” He cocked his head to one side, waiting for my reply.

“Ummm,” I said, not very impressed with his estimation of the old ladder.

“Well,” he mused with his ‘benefit of the doubt’ voice, “I can climb on the roof and do that much-needed repair I’ve been putting off—you know, the one over by the chimney? Didn’t I tell you this ladder would come in handy sometime down the road? Besides,” he continued as he shook the ancient ladder that wobbled precariously while he tested it for durability, “this repair has to be done.”

“Why don’t you use your good ladder?” I queried.

“Because ‘someone’ borrowed my good ladder and didn’t return it…as usual,” he said frowning. “This one will have to do.” He gave the ladder a few more vigorous shakes, propped it against the house at a better angle, then looked at me rather sheepishly. “Will you hold the ladder for me?” he asked.

I surveyed the situation dubiously and said, “Looks kinda dangerous to me,” I commented. “Maybe you should wait until your good ladder finds its way home.”

“I can’t wait,” he said glancing at the sky where dark clouds were gathering on the western horizon. “It’s supposed to rain for the next two days. I really need to get this job done before we spring a major leak.”

“Oh, all right then,” I said with a sigh, “I’ll hold this pathetic ladder, but please, whatever you do—don’t fall—please! There’s no way I can catch you.”

Carefully, he mounted the steps of the ladder, testing each rung carefully as he went. I grasped the sides of the ladder, holding it steady as he climbed, my heart thumping in my chest, breathing a prayer and releasing a sigh of relief when each rung held fast.

Once on the roof, he made his way across the shingles without incident and climbed to the rooftop where the chimney met the peak. He retrieved several shingles from his tool pouch and before very long, I head him whistling and working away with hammer and nails and roofing tar.

I brought a lawn chair and sat near the rose covered trellis that meandered up the southern wall of the house. It was a lovely heirloom climbing rose and the arbor afforded a wonderful place to wait until my husband finished his job and needed me to hold the ladder again. I could smell the pungent odor of roses as they wafted on the summer breeze. The sky along the western horizon was growing dark and ominous with rolling purple clouds. My husband was right—a storm was brewing.

From the edge of the roof, he called my name, and I took up my position as chief ladder holder as he began descending the ladder. He paused just above the roofline and reached for a particularly large and brilliant yellow rose, which he deftly cut off with his pocketknife. When he was safely on terra firma again, he handed the rose to me, a misty look forming in his green eyes.

“For you, my love,” he said simply, lifting my free hand to his lips. “For all those times you’ve held the ladder steady in my life—when things felt shaky and I trembled under the load, you were always there, holding the ladder firm, making sure we were safe—making sure the sheep were safe. Thank you for always being there.”

A mist rise to my own eyes. “I only held the ladder, that’s all.”

“No, it’s more than that. It’s much, much more,” he answered. “When I am up there at the top, exposed and vulnerable to the elements and to my enemies, and everyone’s eyes are upon me, it is comforting to know you are there, holding me steady, holding that wobbly, shaky ladder. I could not do this alone, not without you.”

Squeezing his hand, I recalled the many times I had complained of my unromantic, purely functional role as the chief ladder holder; the one who must keep everything together, everything safe, endeavoring to make things work and run smoothly, always holding the present project steady and on time. Just now, the gift of this one solitary beautiful rose, a token of his genuine appreciation, touched my heart. The analogy spoke volumes to me. After that, holding the ladder for him became more than just a duty, it was a special place of responsibility that was generated by my love for him, for the Great Shepherd, and for the sheep. I remember it often, and as time goes by, or when life becomes difficult, I remember the ladder…and I can still smell the rose. ~~

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