I think that there is a lot of value in doing things that are challenging or uncomfortable. It’s how we grow and learn about ourselves. These challenges come in all forms, and they’re different for each person. This past year, I had the opportunity to go outdoor rock climbing a few times—something that was definitely a personal challenge! I love the outdoors, but I hadn’t ever had much experience with rock climbing, besides those fake, portable rock walls, which aren’t quite the same as the real thing. When I signed up to try it out, I was expecting to learn and be challenged, but I wasn’t expecting to find out so much about myself.
There is something exhilarating about doing something that you didn’t think you could do before. The few times that I’ve had this experience, I’ve noticed that within rock climbing there is an interesting paradox that I think applies pretty well to life in general. While I was climbing, as I got higher and further away from the ground, I became more and more aware of myself. I understood that whether I reached the top of the rock was completely dependent on my own decisions and actions. I had to place a lot of trust in myself—trust that I had the strength of body and mind necessary to get myself up the rock. At the same time, however, I was also aware that I was completely dependent on the person down on the ground who held onto the end of the rope that was keeping me up. Without the person who was down on the ground belaying me, I would come crashing to the ground, unless I climbed perfectly and made no mistakes, which was far from the case. I had to trust that when I did slip or lose strength, this person would keep me from falling. Only I could climb up the rock, but I also relied on the person below as a safety net. I was independently dependent.
I think that this paradox applies to all of us. We’re all striving to be the people that God is calling us to be, and this can sometimes be a tough journey. We all have our cliffs to scale, and just like in rock climbing, whether we are successful depends on our own actions, decisions, thoughts, and attitudes. No one else can climb our rock for us. We are independently responsible for the people that we are and the people we become.
Despite our independence, we are totally dependent on our family, friends, and most of all, God, for support. There is not one of us who will never stumble or grow weak at some point, and during those times, we have to rely on others for support. Trusting that God is there to catch us if we fall as we ascend further and further up the rock will give us the courage to keep climbing even when we feel weak and afraid. When we do make mistakes or encounter unforeseen challenges, God is there to keep us from crashing to the ground—even if that means gently lowering us into his arms and then giving us the chance to start climbing all over again.
One of the most important characteristics of someone who is belaying is patience. The person who belays will catch the climber no matter how often he or she falls; there is no limit to the number of times that the climber can stumble. We have a patient God. It doesn’t matter if we stumble five times or fifty times or five hundred times; he will be there to catch us each and every time. So as we encounter life’s challenges and work to become the people we are called to be, we need not fear our own imperfection, because if we stumble, we will be supported, and even if we fall completely, we will fall straight into the arms of our God.