Monday, January 17, 2005

The Rock Wall

I went rock climbing this weekend. An absolute first for me. But before you get to imagining me scaling sheer cliffs and ropes and people yelling "I won't leave you behind" I'll tell you it was only one of those rock walls you find at the local gym. For $5 I provided at least twenty minutes of entertainment to the masses of sweaty bodies running on treadmills around me. Why entertainment? Well, I'm not really in rock-climbing shape - and that may be the understatement of the year. Not only that but the harnesses they strap you into pull up right under the thighs; making parts of my body even bigger than they already are...if you know what I mean.

But I tried it. That's the real victory. I actually tried it and I learned two important things.

1) It's a lot harder than it looks. Yeah, it seems like there are plenty of places to put your feet and hands but until you get up there, you don't realize that some of those "stones" that have been bolted to the fake wall are just round nubs. How do you get a hold of those slippery little suckers? Plus, you might be able to see a place to settle your foot...but those little stones are much farther apart than they seem. It's sort of a vertical Twister board...flexibility counts.

2) It's a lot scarier than it looks. Okay so I get partway up the wall and all of a sudden I realize I can't go anywhere. Not up. I can't reach anything above me to pull myself higher. Not down. Because I can't see and I'm at this point clinging to the wall. Then I make the mistake of turning around to look at my family on the ground below. Big mistake. Huge. I'm up a lot higher than I had thought and mild panic sets in. Now I'm in a harness and if I just let go the thing will let me swing safely back to the ground. That's the theory anyway. And I watched a dozen pint size kids let go at the top of the wall and enjoy their ride back down. But there was this powerful force of self-preservation that kicked up. Letting go seemed to be the last thing in the world that made sense at that moment. Clinging to the wall seemed reasonable. Letting go? Just plain crazy. Every time I got to that spot on the wall where I got stuck, I had a little mind battle to convince myself that it was okay to let go. Scary stuff. But very cool, too.

That's when I realized that rock climbing is a lot like walking with God. It's harder than it looks because to whom much has been given, much will be required. It's not always easy to walk in love, to offer forgiveness and lay down our own lives to receive the life God has for us. And it's scarier, too. God seems to always ask me to let go when I want to hang on. He tells me to trust Him, rather than myself and to believe His word even if the whole world is screaming something different. Scary Stuff. But very cool, too. And I wouldn't trade walking with Him for anything in the world. It's too much of an adventure to miss out on.