There are ladders in life — and people who promised to show you the way.
There are mentors and leaders, pastors and fathers, bosses and connections — and a host of others whom you’ve banked your heart upon to lead you on in the way.
There are supposedly ladders, and leaders in life, and steps that are meant to raise you higher, connections to make you greater, and ways to get you further — and there are supposedly something, someone, somewhere for you to lean on, even when your days are bad and you are wrecking your brain wild.
That someone once told me, that life’s this giant pathway that can take you somewhere, make you someone, if only you’re positioned in the right place, if only you hang around the right peeps.
Is that true? That success is really about knowing the right people and being networked into the right group?
That the old adage ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’ holds?
I may never be on any podium with any luminary master, or get on the phone with the Bezos of Amazon, but if our well-being solely depends on the favour of our human connections, and if getting ahead means getting in front of the right people, and being born with a silver spoon in my mouth — then I’m doomed, and I’ve lost, and I’ll keep on losing, because sometimes relationships are severed before they are saved, and friendships tested before they will thrive.
That sometimes ladders are meant to make you climb, even when you can’t see the top from the bottom.
That we can sometimes lose our earthly fathers and find our true heavenly Father, that we can skip earthly favours to find the kiss of divine fervour.
Jacob of the Bible — he ran.
“Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran.” (Genesis 28:10)
He ran from the comfort of home, and away from the hearts of his people.
He ran with the lies that it’s a birth order and the firstborn right that’s needed to make him right in life, right as a person.
That when you somehow miss that order, when you’re just not born with the right order and into the right structure, you can strive and connive and do what you need to make it happen.
That we are the Jacobs of this world when we believe that success comes through striving, that significance comes through shoving.
Shoving ahead to be ahead.
But that in God’s economy, you don’t have to struggle to be seen, because you’re already seen.
That in God’s family you never have to cheat to be first, because He makes tails: “heads”.
And Jacob, this son turned success-slave, and the runaway fugitive — he found himself a lonely fifty miles away from home.
And when the night was falling, he took a stone to lay his head.
“When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep.” (Genesis 28:11)
And there in the night, in his utter aloneness, under the starry host and at the lowest point of his life, he found himself right at the intersection of life.
And realised that he was all by himself
That you can sometimes climb all you want and be at the very top, and discover you’re trekking the road yourself.
It was the night where there wasn’t even a human to prop you up, when a soul is most aware of his most aloneness that Jacob dreamt.
And you can just feel it right there in your bone, when the venture you’ve spent years investing into goes nose-down rather than sky-up, when the platforms you’ve curated give way, when fathers paupered rather than prospered you, and spouses lied rather than loved you, and when you feel like you’ve figured life out only to find the cords of trust severed off your vulnerable heart.
That right there in that place, God turned a refugee’s runaway into a resting place.
And Jacob saw a stairway.
“And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it!” (Genesis 28:12)
And there at the very top was God, speaking to him.
“And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:13-15)
It was what towered above him that gave him the assurance.
It was the hound of Heaven that made the insecure, secure.
The assurance that we really aren’t alone even when we feel most lonely.
That we never need to wrangle God’s hands or people’s hearts to make life work.
We never need to fall apart or beg hard to make success happens.
That when we find ourselves wrung at the bottom of our lowest rung, Jesus came to be our very own ladder.
That Jesus, the bridge that links us back from earth towards heaven, fills our gaps and lacks and flaws and crosses us over from our dire poverty into His abundant provision.
That Jesus brings us into the favour of God’s acceptance and forgiveness, protection and promotion.
That we are safe when we are connected to His heart.
That He changes us from where we are today to where we need to be tomorrow when we are resting ourselves upon His very self.
We can see right through it: roughly there in the rough, sketchy patches of all of our lives: how the dismissed, the disdained and the discouraged can step right on and step right up, and be met with the Father who gives His own Son so we can all come safely home.
That we can run from our losses in life, but we’ll never outrun the Lover of our lives.
That even with no solace from human friendships, God offers His shelter in our every storm.
“He pursues us util we finally see Him as our Father, even if it takes all the days of our lives” (Max Lucado).
Until we see Him as our Father…until we realise that He is all the connection we’ll ever need.
That sometimes in a year, where you may have been sobbing in hidden sorrow, where the work of your hands eventuate into nothingness, we the fugitive can cease our fleeing and take our chances to rest upon a stone.
Because our runaway place might very well be our revelation path.
“Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
That there is a way up above even when you’re way down below.
Because this is the truth:
You may have lost your greater connection, but you’ll never lose the greatest connector of life and death – He who loves you enough to come for you.
You may feel like your failures are haunting you, but His grace is more than enough to hover over you.
That you can feel with your faith what you can’t see with your eyes, this tapestry of His love connecting you into and around His plan.
You may feel like your heart’s bankrupted and your trust bank busted on, but there’s One whose promise will never break, whose life was poured out so we the fragmented can be regathered.
That yes, there might be broken ladders in life —but here’s a Ladder that’s come for you, that holds you in all your falling, and failing and flailing places, so you never need to look around, never need to be in dismay, never need to live in terror…
Because you are precious, and He wants you.
And He chooses to be your very own ladder in life.