Finding Discipleship In Climbing
“Belay is on.”
It’s the early hours of the day, and the sun has yet to rise over the edge of the still chilled rock face. As you stand at the foot of the granite monument, the air feels damp and cool, moistened by the snow runoff flowing down the riverbed behind you. You take a deep breath and look up at the line: a beautiful, though intimidating series of movements that reveals a vertical path up the side of the cliff. The lichens and moss paint the rock with stripes of charcoal and emerald, and crystal deposits glisten like diamonds speckled across the entirety of the wall.
You take a deep breath as you reach back into your chalk bag, and feel the finely crushed substance grit between your fingers. You know that the journey you are about to embark on is one of challenge, courage, and fortitude. You see your first bolt, about ten feet from the base of the climb, and begin your ascent.
The rock is cool to the touch. You search for holds and cracks, placing each foot and hand with precision. Each movement is sequenced like a dance. Yet beyond the finesse and flow, each is strenuous and taxing. The granite is sharp and coarse, taking a toll on the skin, and its small edges cause a burning within the forearms. You must endure and persevere, pushing the limits of your strength and confidence in order to continue.
You reach your first bolt and clip in, releasing a deep exhale as the possibility of falling to the ground is eliminated.
Continuing up the face, a new challenge arises: controlling your emotions as you climb higher and the falls get further. Your palms sweat and your nerves race as you consider the outcomes if you lose your footing. Your mind wrestles to keep calm and your muscles tremble as you take your first steps above your last bolt. “What if I fall? How far will I fall? Will my rope catch me? Do I have what it takes to make this next move?” The doubts seem louder than the encouragements, but you drown them out and search for your courage. You stop, compose yourself, set your eyes on the anchors another sixty feet up the wall, and press on.
Reaching the anchors, you are overcome with joy, celebration, and accomplishment. You peer out over the valley floor from the bird’s eye view as the sun rises and reflects off the granite walls opposite you. The view is breathtaking. You rest, belay your partner up to your grand vista, and continue on your journey to the summit, where the true glory is revealed.
Rock climbing is more than just physical. Its practice encompasses body, mind and emotion. Similarly, our entire being is engaged in our pursuit of God. The challenges of climbing are closely paralleled to those of the Discipleship Training School, as we “conform to the likeness of Christ”.
The discipleship process is one of character development. Like climbing, the Discipleship Training School demands that our entire being is tempered. We are put up against ourselves and the agreements we have made about who we are, and are confronted by truth and revelation which allow us to push past our limits and move towards our identity in Christ.
Often, the ruggedness of the journey will try to hold us back and prevent us from moving forward. But when we realize that God (our spiritual rope) loves us, protects us, and will never let us go, then no fear can hold us back from the glory that is set before us.
As you read this story, think about the challenges that are addressed and how they correlate with those of our walk with Christ. Are you willing to take them on in a Discipleship Training School?