What goes up must come down.
My son Scott and I decided to take a course to learn rock climbing and rappelling. So, we traveled to Arizona and early one Saturday morning met our instructor Josh. Less than five minutes after meeting us, two things became clear to Josh: 1) We had made one easy climb before, which meant we knew nothing, but 2) we were eager to learn, commitment proved by the fact that we had already purchased legitimate climbing shoes. (More about the shoes to come.)
Five hours later we felt tired, sore, bruised, bleeding, and just smart enough now to know we have a long way to climb before we truly know what we’re doing. That’s okay, because Josh taught us plenty that day.
We began the adventure with a hike around the back of the climbing course that took us to the top. Once there, Josh showed us a pair of 8-inch bolts driven into a rock as large as my garage. Our Yoda-like guide said, “Always know your anchor; you will need to rely on it, so always know what you’re putting your trust in.”
Several more explanations of the function and infallibility of our equipment familiarized us with all the stuff on our harnesses. Good info to know because a few moments later the time came to stand backwards on the edge of a cliff and begin the gravity-defying rappel to the bottom. “When you’re about to make a challenging move, pause for a moment and think about the systems that support you, especially the anchor.”
“Are we starting with a challenging section?” I asked.
“For you it is because it’s your first time.”
Fair enough. A quick scan of my gear and a mental image of those anchors provided enough reassurance to step backwards and begin the descent. While not quite a Tom Cruise maneuver from a Mission Impossible movie, the adrenaline rush hit me big! No wonder Tom makes so many of those films.
Next, we climbed. About half-way up a rock face, maybe 40 feet, another challenge arrived. I felt stuck. No clear next move appeared. For the moment, my feet solidly gripped the rock, thanks to those sweet new shoes. But I knew that moment could not last long. I heard Josh say from the floor that now seemed 400 feet below me, “It’s okay to make a big move because I’ve got you. Trust your equipment. Remember the anchor.”
Emboldened by the image of those 8-inch bolts, I released my right hand, lunged my body weight to the left, and reached high for a grab point that, unfortunately, did not exist. The move made so much sense in my mind. But with nothing to grip, the reality of my situation immediately set in; I will fall. Yep, that’s what happened.
But I only fell a foot or two. The anchors remained in place, the harness held me, and I remained suspended in mid-air. “A few big breaths and plan your next move. You’ve got this.” Josh had confidence in me – just enough for my own to return.
I eventually reached the top and then rappelled back to the ground. As Josh and I bumped fists, he shared wisdom that I needed to hear: “Unless you fall, you will never learn how to completely trust what’s holding you.”
Scott and I both fell that day, making us better climbers. In our own, challenging ways, we both experienced falls in life over the past year. Yet, neither of us plummeted to the floor. Others helped support us, and we held up one another. Still do. And will. Most important, we both have an unmovable, 100 percent reliable Anchor that we remind each other about often. (“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6)
What do you trust? Who or what is your anchor? When you know for certain, you’ll be able to continue going after a fall. You might even try bolder moves.
Everyone falls. Climb on.
© 2020 David Staal All rights reserved. davidstaal.net
David Staal serves as a consultant to the nonprofit sector following 11 years as President & CEO of a national organization (Kids Hope USA), 10 years in church staff leadership (Willow Creek Community Church), and a 13-year marketing career (Abbott Laboratories). A senior editor for Christianity Today International for 12 years, he also authored these books: