Last summer I visited Ponce de Leon Lighthouse – again. I have never tired of the beauty of the red brick and the white circular staircase leading to the gallery deck at the top. My love for lighthouses really began when I was a thirteen-year-old 7th grader in Owensboro, Kentucky art class. Mr. Poynter taught me to draw lighthouses. The assignment was technically to teach perspective and vanishing point, but for me it was love. I began painting lighthouse murals on our basement walls, on notebook tablets and on book covers – but I’d never seen a real lighthouse. That is, not until our family moved to Miami Florida in 1965.
Ponce de Leon Lighthouse
After my family moved to Florida, I discovered the Cape Florida Lighthouse on Key Biscayne. At the time it was in terrible disrepair, but my joy in just being in its shadow with my portable royal typewriter gave wings to many lofty thoughts, stories and poems. It wasn’t until I was an adult and my children almost grown that I actually had the opportunity to visit and climb lighthouses.
Today visiting lighthouses and climbing them is a wonderful hobby and has led my husband and me across America in search of “just one more lighthouse”. One of those is the Ponce de Leon Lighthouse, located in Ponce Inlet, Florida. On this particular visit we were able to climb the 203 steps to the top of this 175 foot tall tower. I discovered that I was singing, “We are climbing Jacob’s ladder…every step goes higher, higher…” (Oh, and by the way, the acoustics in a lighthouse tower are so incredible that I didn’t even care if someone might hear my song – though I was a bit glad to notice no one was around)
Though we have climbed many lighthouses, this one was a bit like a test run. It was the first since a knee injury and surgery, and I was unsure how it would all turn out. Of course we had to have chosen the tallest lighthouse in the state, and the second tallest in the united States. What were we thinking!
The “higher, higher” part of the song became my mantra as I lifted my foot to the next step. Sure, it was a long climb to reach the top, but with several mini-breaks the victory was mine. The view and sense of accomplishment on that climb were well worth the effort. And the test run went well because three days later I was climbing another tower.
As I look through the many pictures I took on that day, I remember singing, and pondering the real meaning of the song, “We are climbing Jacob’s Ladder…” Most of us have heard it from childhood, probably sung it at some point, or taught it to children. There are many speculations about it’s origin, significance, and the theological interpretations of Jacob’s dream…but, I came away from the Genesis 28 account with this one thought.
There was Jacob just as the sun was setting….out away from family and friends, an outcast because of his and his mother’s deceit. He surely felt the weight of his bad decisions, and the loneliness brought about because of his action. We have the biblical account of his pulling a stone up under his head as a pillow and going to sleep. I’m quite certain had I been in his shoes, sleep would have been far from me as I wrestled with the guilt of my sin, and even more so if I had a rock rather than my feather pillow to rest my head upon. However, the story unfolds with his falling asleep and dreaming a dream of a ladder set upon earth and reaching into heaven with angels going up and down. The Lord God was standing at the top and reiterated to Jacob the promise of descendants He had previously made to Abraham. The Lord concluded with “I am with thee and will keep thee in all places…and I will not leave thee…” (Genesis 28:15).
There are times when I feel very much alone, terribly overwhelmed, totally undeserving, and just need to know regardless of my present circumstances, God will not leave me.
Though I find the staircases of all lighthouses to be works of art, beautiful, and inspiring architecturally, I also look up and see the many steps ahead that will be necessary before reaching the top. I wonder, can I do it? How does one climb a lighthouse? One step at a time. So it is with learning life lessons of trust and confidence in God’s promises. Every step I take in believing what He says to be true, each step of faith; however small, takes me along the journey just a little bit higher, a little more confident in trusting Him. He IS faithful. He WILL be with me and keep me in ALL places. “Every step [does] go higher, higher, soldiers of the cross.”
The theology of the song…perhaps not much to it…but the love and care of an ever-present Heavenly Father – now that’s everything!
Have you ever found yourself singing this little chorus? What do you think it means? I’d be interested in your take.