This is not a new post for me but something that I wrote back in 2006. Going back over some of my old meanderings I couldn’t help but think how appropriate this old story was to what I’m going through right now. Where am I placing my faith? And how great is my confidence?
In 1981 I was stationed at Lowry AFB which was located just East of Denver, Colorado. Now, I’d been involved in backpacking for the past 6 years and had done a little rock climbing at Carderock in Potomac, MD so the Rockies standing there on the horizon beckoned to me constantly. Luckily for me I met a guy a year younger than me who had been involved in the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group as a high school project and who was more than willing to show me some of the climbing routes in the mountains just West of Boulder. The one thing I have to say at this point for you to understand is that I am deathly afraid of heights. I don’t mean a little afraid but seriously, perversely afraid. I dream up what ifs to the point that my legs jittered, and my hands sweat so much that I’m sure to loose my grip on anything, even a ladder rung. I mean rock cliffs have been known to sheer off from time to time… I’ve never been an adrenaline junkie so that’s not the reason I liked to climb, it was more of the internal challenge of beating my personal fears. Or maybe like a moth drawn to the light of a bug zapper I just can’t help myself.
So off we’d go on the weekends, throwing all our gear into the back of the old 9 passenger Dodge war wagon and blasting our way up to Boulder. John started me off on some simple climbs like the Flat Irons, but eventually we worked our way up to some more technical climbs. One of the climbs that John wanted us to do required the use of some rather small (ridiculously small in my opinion) hardware called micro wedges. The micro wedge that we needed to place was about the width of the finger nail on my pinky and about 3/8 of an inch thick. This was going to be the initial point of protection on a 20 foot horizontal traverse. What this meant is that while I was 60 feet up, I had to pull out the bolt that was in front of me and then try to make that 20 feet before I’d get to that wedge. If I fell, I’d be swinging in a pendulous arc across the rock face. If that wedge happened to pull out, not only would I be swinging like Tarzan but I’d take another 10 foot plunge at the same time, which means that I’d wind up crashing into another rock wall that was sticking out at a right angle from the face that I was on. To say that my fears were starting to take hold at this point would be an understatement. So how did I finally conquer my fear and make my across that traverse?
Any time I’ve ever gotten into something new, be it backpacking, biking, motorcycles, climbing, computers, etc., etc. I’ve been maniacal in my search for information. I try to learn as much as possible about it as I can. I not only want to know specifications and facts, but I want to know the vernacular as well. So I had read up on climbing for quite a while at this point. I understood the physics behind placement of protection, and I knew the physical strengths and limitations of all the equipment that we were using. I knew how much force the fall would generate with me weighing 190lbs. We were using a 9mm climbing rope rated at 9 falls, so I knew how much shock would take, and I knew that the micro wedge was designed to hold a little over 1300 lbs. Given that I wouldn’t really be exerting any shock to the wedge I probably wouldn’t generate much more than 500 – 600lbs of force, if I did pendulum. In other words, I had listed all the statistics and knew that even if I did fall I would survive, but that still didn’t calm my nerves.
Now, John was about 5-9 165lbs but built like a little tank. Every ounce on him was well honed muscle. He’d been climbing since he was 12, had a few years of serious training in climbing and had even been up this same route previously. As he sat anchored to a ledge, little over 30 feet away, his ever present Cheshire smile beamed at me with confidence. I could see that from his perspective this was nothing more than a nice afternoon stroll in the park. I can still remember him calling out to me with a chuckle in his voice, “So you gonna, hang there all day, or get up here and check out this view? I know you’re afraid but we’ve done tougher climbs than this. Stop looking down and look at me! I’m soo anchored here I could hold a pickup truck. Heck, for that matter, just let loose and swing over here!” While I had good deal of confidence in the equipment, I had even more in John’s abilities.
I was trusting John and that little wedge of metal with my life. Yes, I know everything pointed to the fact that I really had nothing to fear, but that really didn’t help diminish my fear. In my mind I was trusting this 19 year old kid with my life.
So in what do you place your personal and spiritual faith? When things get scary where do you find security and comfort? Is it in your job, is it the piece of paper neatly framed on the wall, or the dollar amount of your pay check, your house or the neighborhood you can afford to live in, your family, your spouse, your friends? If you’re placing your faith in Jesus Christ have you read His manual? Have you been involved in any training courses, or worked with a mentor who can show you the ropes and lead you safely past the hazards? If Jesus told you to just let go and swing would you be able to? Are you Peter, willing to get out of the boat?
I got about 10 feet across the traverse when the lip that I was standing actually did give way and I found myself swinging towards the other rock face, which instead of smacking into I more or less landed on, completely unscathed. Standing there I looked up to find John’s silly and infectious grin lighting up his face. “So was it that bad?”
No, it wasn’t that bad. Matter of fact it was kind of fun.