And so it begins. Having just completed my safety check, I reach for the start hold and find a place for my feet—if there is one—and I’m off! My eyes travel up the wall, looking for the next piece of colored tape, marking the next hold in my route to the top. I have the utmost faith in my harness and my belayer (and of course the rope!) It can’t be any other way—the alternative means I remain stuck on the ground!
My hands start to sweat as I get a little higher. I find a comfortable place to stop for a moment and reach back into my chalk bag, dusting my fingers with a little chalk to keep me from slipping off the holds. I continue along—a jug here, a pinch there, another jug, a crimp—“TAKE!” I feel myself slipping, and the next move looks out of my comfort zone. I lean back in my harness, shaking my hands a little, allowing my tense muscles a moment to relax.
I contemplate the move, shake my hands a little again and yell back to my friend, “Climbing!” I reach for the next hold, maneuvering my feet into a position giving me the most height and power. One, two, three, I push. I reach. And suddenly I feel myself falling! I missed it! My friend catches the rope and allows me a moment to shake off the fall. She yells some encouraging words; tells me to take my time. I continue trying. After several attempts, I finally get through the move and go on with the remainder of the route.
Finally, I reach the hold that all climbers aim for: The upside down “v” that marks the top. I reach out and smack the beam above my head! I did it! I take a moment to look around and enjoy the view from the top of the wall—I’m a little afraid of heights, or more of falling, so sitting up at the top always feels a little surreal, a little nerve-wracking, but totally worth it!
I sail down the wall! This is the easy part! High-fives await me at the bottom, along with a congratulations and question, “so how was it?” I grin. I made it through my crux and reached the top!
But I know I couldn’t have done it on my own. I needed the encouragement of my friends at the bottom. I needed to have faith in my harness and my belayer. I needed some chalk to help with the sweating. I needed my shoes to help with those tiny toe-holds. I needed the rope to keep me up there. And I needed my strength that I’ve been building on along with endurance to keep me going.
In all honesty, I started rock climbing two years ago because the guy I liked was pretty big into climbing! Two years later, though the guy is no longer in the picture, I climb for personal satisfaction. It has become a great connecting point for me with new friends and old friends alike. But also because I know it has the potential to push me out of my comfort zone. It has become my life-metaphor.
When I started, I was anxious and scared. You see, I’m terrified of failing! I wanted so badly to be able to climb well, and frankly, I couldn’t. It took several attempts to even climb onto the wall! Once I was finally on, I think I only got about four feet off the ground before my hands hurt too much to keep going. Thus my first attempt ended. I had not made it even close to the top; in fact, in my eyes, I had failed. But, you know something? I loved it! And I came back; every week, twice a week, for the rest of the semester.
A few months later, one of my friends at home took me shopping for the right gear so that I could climb easier. No more runners, and I said hello to chalk! Slowly and surely, the basics started to come after that. I was even able to get off of the floor! But with my new interest in climbing came many lessons to be learned!
Because I’m very independent, I like to do things my own way, in my own time. Climbing doesn’t work that way, necessarily, and neither does life. God didn’t design us to be lone-rangers. We need to walk with people. We need to allow people to come alongside us to help us, to run with us, to dream with us, to cry with us. And, God provided the “right” equipment (namely the Bible!) to help us in our journey.
My fear of failure hasn’t magically disappeared. I still try to take easier routes to the top, but I have found that I don’t experience the same satisfaction that I get when I attempt something beyond me. Climbing has taught me to push my limits. Recently, I participated in a series of competitions. I had placed in the top four in my category for the first two competitions, barely being beaten out of first place. For the final competition, I knew I needed to push myself if I wanted to win my category. I pushed myself in practice, climbing a little harder, attempting routes beyond my ability. It also included a lot of prayer. And guess what? This past competition, I won!
Though there are times in life when winning isn’t the goal, for this time, it was. And I knew it was possible, but it would take hard work and commitment!
My life-metaphor is unlimited—unfortunately, my word limit isn’t. There are lessons about trust, about perseverance, about daring greatly; but most importantly, I’ve learned that I need to take it one step at a time, with Him as my guide, making sure that I have the necessary equipment to get me through. And one day, I’ll make it to the ultimate end of this route, and what a view it will be.