Back in 2012, when I was a fairly new climber, I attended a 12-day climbing course with Solid Rock Outdoor Ministries. I was 40 years old, never had camped before, and the only person not in their twenties. That course taught me much more than just how to camp, and rock climb. The time spent in the wilderness, and on the rock, transformed my life forever emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
That course impacted me more than I can explain in this short of a text. Not only was I way older than everyone else, I also was not in very good shape. Throughout the adventure, I cried several times as my weaknesses and shortcomings were exposed for everyone to see.
There is nothing like being stretched beyond your comfort zone, in sheer exhaustion, to come to the end of yourself. It is in those times, where we have nothing left, that we learn to lean on God to carry us through.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
We spent the majority of the course in City of Rocks, Idaho. About halfway through, we were climbing at harder routes than I was used to. I remember fighting my way up one particular climb. I grew more and more frustrated as I groaned and shouted my way past each agonizing move. The more I fell, the more stressed I became. At one point, as I was shouting out in frustration, I noticed one of the camp counselors climbing next to me. She had just learned to climb a couple of weeks earlier and was calling out to Jesus as she worked her way calmly up the route.
God stopped me dead in my tracks. He showed me how much I was relying on myself, and how little I was looking to Him. He showed me that not only in climbing, but with life in general, I was trying to take my own path, in my own way.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9
As I sat there pondering how I had just been fighting my way up the wall, I realized I should have been praying my way up instead. After hanging on my rope for a moment, I took a deep breath and had a little conversation with God. I asked for forgiveness for the habit of fighting and clawing my way through life, rather than relying on Him. I asked God to settle my spirit and to give me the strength, skills and confidence needed to complete not only the climb, but also the course. I also asked for that same strength to face the many challenges that I was facing me back home. Once I was settled, I effortlessly and calmly completed my climb.
That moment stands out as the most vivid memory from my trip. As I face challenges both on the rock and in everyday life, I think about the lesson He had shown me 50 feet off the ground.
I am not always perfect in this area. After all I can be a bit stubborn. However, when I do find myself fighting and clawing my way to the top, I try to stop and take a breath. I then whisper the name like no other name… Jesus. It is in those times that my spirit is calmed, my heart is in sync with my Creator, and my strength is not my own. It is in those times that I can sink into every step and savor every movement as I reach for the next hold. It is in those times that I experience the most joy both in climbing and in life.
Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, – 1 Chronicles 16: 11-13
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. – abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:11–13