Field Notes From the Climbing Crag
If you’ve ever stepped foot in my office, you’ve probably noticed that it’s a little messy and hung on the wall are some particularly odd pieces of gear. For those with experience in rock climbing outdoors, they would recognize them instantly as a life-saving pieces called CAMs (or camming devices). For those without rock climbing experience, they’d wonder why the youth pastor displays odd things on the wall, and doesn’t clean his office more frequently. Regardless, these devices are a small window into one of my very favorite hobbies that’s taught me a great deal about life in God. Allow me to explain.
When rock climbing outdoors, you generally always have a climbing partner who belays for you. That is, they hold the rope on the other end so that you don’t fall off the rock face and splat on the ground. You’ve also got gear, such as CAMs, Carabiners, Nuts, a rope (obviously), and a harness. All of these things are essential to: 1.) Survive and 2.) Continue moving upward.
In the many years I’ve been rock climbing, I’ve learned something about myself. At the beginningof a climb I always trust my rope and my gear, but most importantly, I trust my climbing partner who’s actively taking in the slack as I make my way upward. Amazingly, though, when I’m 65 feet off the ground, clinging to tiny rocks on the side of cliff, what I once trusted with my life, I seemingly always start to call into question. When all I can hear is my breathing (which is usually heavy), and the tap of my shoes as they find the next flake of rock to put weight on, my mind is free to think “Ahhh! You’re way off the ground! What are you doing?!” Instead of trusting in my gear, or my partner… I start to trust in myself, and my ability to hang on. Now let me just say, this is stupid thinking… because my life is literally connected with that person on the ground, belaying me, keeping me safe. But I’ve learned that I have such a hard time putting my trust in someone else to keep me safe. It frequently happens that, when I’m running out of strength on the hardest part of my climb, and with all my might I’m trying to hang on, I’m relieved to hear a voice shouting “I’ve got you! Don’t worry! The next hold is right there. You can do this.”
That voice calling up to me reminds me that I am safe, and I am secure, and that I’ve got nothing to fear, even if my arms give way. The reality is that it’s merely a small picture of the voice that calls out to me from the Living Word and says “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). Much like on a long, hard rock climb, I can tend to forget that my life is connected with the very spirit of God who directs my paths, and keeps me in His fold. My tendency is to hold on with a iron grip, to shoulder whatever lays ahead of me, and to press on. I so quickly forget that God is the one enabling my every move, my every breath, and my every thought. He reminds me from the prophet Isaiah that “ I am your God… I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous hand.” (Isa. 41:10)
Brothers and Sisters, as you walk through this life, no matter the season, I urge you to trust in your lifeline. Call out to Him in times of weariness and trouble, and praise Him in times when the climbing is easy. As God promised the Israelites, and so seals his promise in us by His holy spirit: “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”
In His mercy,