Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rock Climbing and Life Lessons

So, I went rock climbing for the very first time in a climbing gym the other day. I was quite surprised that when the opportunity presented itself I didn't run and hide like I usually do. You see, I am terrified of heights and falling, so much so that just going up the stairs in the Health Library at my univeristy is enough to give me vertigo.

So, what is a girl like me doing going rock climbing? I might have asked myself the same question, but the strange thing is that I wasn't afraid. That is, not until I got off the ground.

From the floor, it all looked simple and I convinced myself there was nothing to it. I could make it to the top. No sweat.

But it's different when you're in a harness, and the only thing that seems to be holding you up is a rope and your own arms and legs. And let me tell you how much faith I place in my own arms and legs = 0. None whatever. When I got on the wall and started to climb, I'd barely get three feet off the ground when my arms would start shaking from the strain or the terror or both. Nope. The only thing I could trust was the rope to hold me up and my friend to catch me if I were indeed to fall.

Not much help to a scaredy cat like me.

Trust a rope. Right.

My mind would scream at me in protest! Hellooo! A rope?! Ropes are made by men and subject to error. How can I trust in a rope to hold me? Besides, didn't I just sign a waiver releasing the gym from liability in the case of my injury... and even death?! No way! No how! I can't trust something that's so uncertain.

But mind you, these things went through my head as I was climbing. Not when I had my feet firmly planted. Was there a difference in the rope? Or a difference in my relation to it?

There's no difference in the rope, that's certain. The difference was I wasn't hanging from it. I didn't have to trust very firmly in it, because my safety wasn't on the line.

The point? Danger and uncertainty test our trust and our faith.

To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, You don't know how much you trust a rope until you have to swing from it.

Mr. Lewis was talking about our faith in God and how we don't know exactly how much faith we have until that faith is tested--that is, until the situation becomes dire, and God is the only thread to which we are holding as we dangle over the great precipice of life.

But there is hope for the scared ones like myself: as we exercise faith, we become braver.

And the same thing is true for rock climbing and the like: the farther I am able to push myself, the farther I'll be able to go, because I will become braver, and able to take more risks because my trust in the rope has been tested and proven true.

May it be the same with our faith in God.