He told the story of a team of workers that was fixing his house. Part of the job involved working near the roof on the side of the house. One of the workers leaned his ladder against the side of the house, but the place where the ladder was leaning wasn’t secure, and the ladder wobbled as he began to climb.
The worker made a course correction. Before he got too high up, he stopped, climbed back down, and moved the ladder so that it leaned against a place that was more secure. With the ladder firmly in place, the worker climbed up the ladder to complete his work.
The ladder is a metaphor for our lives. We all place our ladder on something—the thing that we hope will bring us safety, security, meaning, and fulfillment. But some places are better than others. Some places are more secure, and some places are more wobbly.
Politics is a wobbly place to lean your ladder against. Each election cycle, millions of people spend a lot of time and energy thinking, watching, and debating about the various candidates. People believe that if only their candidate wins, things will be different, the world will be a better place, and they will be more safe, secure, and happy.
It doesn’t usually work out. By the nature of our political system, about half of the country is very upset and discouraged once all the votes are counted. So much hope was placed in a certain candidate, but it didn’t work out. Anger, frustration, and despair spills out everywhere.
And even if your candidate wins, the reality is they will almost always disappoint you. Politicians fail to deliver on their promises. Hope turns to disappointment as the realities of this difficult world and the challenges of governing take hold. Politics can never fully satisfy, because the foundation of the ladder is wobbly.
Maybe politics isn’t a big deal for you, but you place your ladder on something else. Maybe it’s your job or the amount of money you make. Perhaps it is your physical appearance or your health. Maybe it’s a relationship. If you are a spiritual person, perhaps you place your ladder on God or the church.
I hate to admit it, but I’m not sure that anything we place our ladders on in this world is fully secure. You might be great at your job, but then the economy takes a hit and you found yourself unemployed. You might exercise five times per week and eat your fruits and vegetables, but then you got a diagnosis of cancer that came out of nowhere. Maybe you set your hopes and dreams on a spouse and marriage, but they asked for a divorce. Perhaps you placed your faith in God or the church, but they disappointed you.
Sometimes I wonder if this insecurity is part of the reason why some authors, like C.S. Lewis, have said that inside each of us is a deep longing for heaven. In our lives, we all struggle with placing our ladders against wobbly structures, and we inevitably get disappointed and hurt. We long for a place where we are safe, secure, connected, and loved—a place without fear or pain.
We aren’t there yet. In the meantime, think about where you place your ladder. How secure is it? If you have your ladder set up against something like politics, it will almost surely disappoint you. It might be worth shifting your ladder to a more secure place.