The ups and downs of ladders

9 years ago

“And [Jacob] dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it” (Genesis 28:12 KJV).

My husband wanted to remedy a downside to using his ladder near windows, so he bought a stabilizer. He removed the metal contraption from its box, explaining how this arrangement would work. I heard words coming out of his mouth; I even sensed his enthusiasm. But I could better understand how a different kind of ladder works.

Some writing books mention the ladder of abstraction. At the bottom rung of this figurative ladder we find specific, concrete terms — my husband’s hammer, drill, and circular saw.

On the top rung we find abstract concepts such as forgiveness, mercy, and grace; terms between the two extremes lie on those foggy middle rungs. I told my husband about this fascinating tool, waving my hand to show how writers move up and down this ladder. But he said that he had been so focused on my hand motions, that he forgot to pay attention to my words.

Oh, well. At least we understand our own ladder.

Jacob also knew about a ladder. One commentator has written that the ladder in Jacob’s dream symbolizes Jesus, for He is the only way to heaven. If we place our trust in the Ladder that God provided, we will spend eternity with Him. And there are no downsides; we never need a stabilizer when our Ladder is Christ.

Christine Laws works with words — while her husband works with wood — in Amity. Her stories, essays, and poems have appeared in a variety of publications. She is also the author of “Fresh and Fruitful: Cultivating the Art of Writing.”