A few weeks ago, our group experienced something I had never seen before with climbing. We had a young teenager visiting from out of town, who wanted to try climbing for the first time. She scurried up an easy 5.6 route. Easily that is until she was less than 10 feet from the top. At that point, fear set in and she wanted to come down. When her belayer started to lower her, that fear became paralyzing, and she hugged the rock, refusing to sit back and be lowered. I have seen this kind of insecurity in the past, but never to this extent. She refused to climb up and walk off, and also refused to sit back on the rope to be lowered.
I went to the top of the climb, and lowered down next to the her. I tried over and over to reassure her, show her what to do, and get her to lean back on her rope. As soon as she would feel the stretch in the rope, she would panic and fling herself forward, once again hugging the rock desperately. After an hour of trying good cop, bad cop, and the combination of both, I got her down to the ground safely, next to her extremely exhausted belayer.
The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? – Psalm 27:1
Climbing is a trust game through and through. You trust that your harness is secure and will hold you. You trust that your belayer is paying attention, and will catch you if you fall. You trust your bolts are secure, and the anchor is set up properly. You trust that all your equipment is properly locked, loaded, and secure. Most of all, you trust that the 9.8 mm rope is strong enough to hold your weight, catch your fall, and bring you back down safely. To compound all of this, a fear of heights may also be a factor.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isiah 41:10
Fear is something that all of us deal with in one form or another. Fear can be something debilitating, such as a fear of heights, or of getting hurt. You can also have irrational fears that are not based on facts, such as with the girl unwilling to be lowered. Or, our fears could be justified as we face uncertainty in our finances, family, marriage, career, or health.
Fear affects all of us in one way or another. The question becomes, how do you deal with it? This past Sunday, Calvin Landrus, the head of Solid Rock Climbers for Christ, preached a very inspiring message at Climbers Church, during the International Climbing Festival, in Lander WY. During his message, Calvin shared a quote that was powerful and thought-provoking. “God does not change His plans to calm our fears.”
So, what does that mean? Does it mean to back down, alter our course, or bail, due to fear? Or does it mean to push through the fear, move forward, and grab the next opportunity God has placed before you.
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. – 2 Timothy 1:7
I left that sermon on Sunday with a few burning questions. How many opportunities did I miss out on due to fear? How many times did I not follow God’s plan and calling on my life, because I was too afraid to take that next step? What would my life look like today if all the years of living in fear, were instead lived courageously? What amazing things would I have been a part of, if faith had ruled instead of fear? How many times have I been paralyzed, clinging to the rock, unwilling to trust my Rope?
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? – Psalm 56:3-4
Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. – Isiah 26:4
I joke a lot about the fact that I am a chicken leader. The truth is, I am terrified of falling, especially on the cheese grater slabs, found in the Black Hills. I realize that fear has also held me back in climbing as well as in life. When I am on lead, I climb way below my ability and make only safe moves, rather than taking the risk and really going for it.
As I think about how fear has held me back in life, I realize how that same fear has held me back from experiencing all climbing has to offer. Not that I need to be reckless. I do not believe that that is what God wants. However, I do believe He wants us to step outside our comfort zones, be okay with being uncomfortable, take risks, and go for all that He has to offer. How much more fulfilling, meaningful, and exciting would life be if we were able to live in this way?
The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. – Psalm 23