Thursday, August 25, 2011

I'm a Rock-Climber?

I heard recently that the perfect physique for a male rock climber is 5’10” and 135 lbs. I haven’t been 5’10” and 135 lbs since middle school. So what was I doing harnessing up to climb a 40 foot rock face? Great question. But there I was off a boon dock road in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan getting prepped for my accent. This wasn’t one of those walls built in a gym with screwed in hand and foot holds; this was a God-made rock face that had been there for thousands of years.

Grant, my son-in-law, is a certified climber and loves to take climbers to their first assent. Grant began our Saturday adventure by lead-climbing the rock, using safety clips pre-set in the rock by other climbers. When he reached the top, he secured a rope and pulley to the clip at the top of the rock face. That was our goal… to get to that clip. He made it look fairly easily, but I wasn’t sure this experience was for me. I grabbed my camera and confidently stated that I would be the event photographer capturing memories made by others.

Through the course of the morning, my son and his three friends enjoyed climbing this rock with various degrees of success. My camera was busy and I was happy with my role until I heard, “Your turn dad.” I’m not sure if I felt pressure or encouragement. In watching the kids climb, I realized that there are three possible outcomes if I were to give this a shot. First, I could climb successfully to the top. Second, I could get tired and/or frustrated and quit. Third, I could fall. But no matter the outcome, at some point I would have to put my trust completely into one person—the person belaying my climb. This person’s job is to remove slack from the line as I climb, to secure me if I fall or to help me repel when I want to come down. They stand at the bottom, fully harnessed with an ATC (belaying device) clipped to their harness. They must know what they are doing and how to work the equipment.

As I began to harness in, Josh (who would belay me) and Grant began to explain some things. Perhaps they saw fear in my eyes. They explained how each piece of equipment was rated to be several thousand pounds more than my falling weight. They also spent time explaining Josh’s role, his experience level and his confidence in making my climb successful and enjoyable. I clipped in and began to climb. I knew that fatigue would be my first enemy, so my plan was to navigate the face as fast as I could. I felt a sense of freedom and confidence as I found places to grab, stand, and move upward. This was going better than I expected. But the higher I climbed, the smaller the holds seemed to be, and my hands and feet began to hurt and tire. I wanted to move through this tough spot but I could feel my weight pulling me off the wall. As I made a quick move to get to a more secure spot a few feet higher, everything slipped off the wall and my entire weight fell into the harness. That uneasy falling sensation rushed through my stomach and throat for just a brief moment until I felt the tension and bounce of the rope. It had been several minutes since I thought about Josh but at that very moment, he became a very important person in my life. I looked down and made instant eye contact with Josh. Both his hands were locked on the rope above the ATC and he smiled confidently up at me and said, “Got ya!”

As I read through the Gospels and see how Jesus interacted with his disciples, it’s clear to me that Jesus was developing three significant qualities in them. First, he wanted them to understand and to believe that he’s the One. He wanted them to see him for who he truly is—the Divine Son of God who has the authority and ability to direct their life. Second, he wanted them to trust him. It was vital for them to be assured he had their best interests in mind. And third, they were not God, they were not self-sufficient, and they had no strength and safety to climb the rocks of life on their own. Perhaps rock climbing and following Christ come down to three important words: belief, trust, and submission.

Do you believe that Jesus is who he says he is? Do you trust that he knows what he’s doing in our world and in your life? Have you submitted fully to him whether in success, fatigue, discouragement or in falling? God won’t climb the rock for you, but he will hold the line. He takes great joy watching you stride and accomplish the route he has planned for you.

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