Posted by: karanoel | October 4, 2019

Climbing higher

Chase loves to climb – as long as it doesn’t require him to reach any kind of heights. And by heights I mean anything more than a few feet up, after which point he quivers in fear, panics to the point of paralysis and cries out for help. And yet, because it’s something he actually likes (you should’ve seen his joy scrambling over low boulders in Yosemite last year) and because his featherweight body seems well-suited for climbing, I suggested an outing to Sender City, an indoor rock climbing gym created specifically for kids. After Chase’s initial rejection of the idea, we went to the gym just to walk through and check it out, after which point – to my surprise – Chase said he’d like to give it a try… at a future point, he clarified; definitely not now. So a few weeks later, after school on his birthday, that’s just what we did.

The best part of the gym’s setup is their auto belay system. If a child lets go at any height – whether intentional or accidental – the cable, which is connected to their harness will lower them gently to the ground. This allows for some thrilling experiences, like the loose foam blocks they can use to build a tower to climb or the sky-high platform they can leap off to try to grab a trapeze bar… because falling becomes inconsequential. 

IMG_6817John and I watched the safety video, learned how to clip Chase in at each obstacle (for lack of a better word) and were sent off to start our adventure. After asking an employee to point us to an easy one, we clipped Chase in and he began his ascent. After an elevation gain of about two feet, he froze. As he started to climb back down, we reminded him that he could just let go and rappel down. “The cable’s got you, remember?” Even at that low height, it was nerve racking for him to let go and trust this unknown thing to hold him. The next time he climbed ever so slightly higher – maybe another foot – and then awkwardly released his hold as he gently dropped. This testing of the system took a while for this safety-conscious, risk-averse boy. But each time he fell without injury, his trust and comfort level grew. In very little time, his confidence was high enough to reach the top of some elements. Which was, frankly, shocking. Even on the ones that still made him nervous, like The Trembling Towers, he kept repeating the obstacle until he could make it to the tallest blue “tower.” 

 

 

The only glitch we had was when he ran over to the foam blocks, built something to climb and then went right to it, not realizing until we said “wait!” that he wasn’t yet clipped in. A good reminder, for sure. But he was having so much fun that the gym gave us a little extra time beyond our hour-long session as a birthday present. We haven’t returned yet, but Chase said he’d really like to and I’m pretty sure he will start the next session at a higher trust level than last time and will probably reach even greater heights – maybe even throwing himself off the sky-high platform toward the trapeze bar.

There are very few experiences in life that don’t point me to something spiritual and this was no exception. It is a vivid picture of faith. Salvation is our harness. It provides us with the perfect spot to clip into Jesus, the unfailing cable who keeps us safe as we tackle the obstacles of life. The act of clipping into Jesus is called faith. It’s not some mystical or emotional thing, but active trust empowered by the Holy Spirit that allows us to scale heights we would never otherwise be able to. 

As we are first learning to live by faith, we probably won’t get very high because we don’t yet trust that we are going to be caught if we fall. Like Chase, we will probably get a few feet up before trying to climb back down or awkwardly rappelling to the ground. But, if we keep challenging this system – or, rather, this relationship – going a little higher each time (or a lot higher those times that life requires it), we will learn from intimate experience that we will be safe if we fall or, if we do get hurt, it will not be devastating. This will enable us to confidently follow the Lord to the places that seem so daunting, which is truly a thrilling prospect. But we must never misplace our confidence in our own ability and neglect to clip into Jesus, because there is great risk to our wellbeing in that.

Now, I’m not saying that we won’t experience pain or that when we do, it means we don’t have faith. Hard, painful things are one of the ways we learn to walk by faith.  It is in those very circumstances – if we are clipped in and let go of our death grip (sometimes by choice, but usually because we just can’t hold on any longer) – we will find that we didn’t plummet as expected; that there is indeed something holding us. Maybe at the beginning, it is just a small measure of comfort or a distant light of hope or the sense that we are not entirely alone. But as our trust grows through relational experience with the One who holds us, we will find that we can live with greater boldness, throwing ourselves from even the highest platform for a chance to reach that trapeze bar because falling becomes inconsequential.

I have in no way “arrived,” but along the way, God has given me a thousand and one opportunities to let go and trust Him, giving me confidence in His ability to keep me safe when I fall (or fail) and to heal me when I get hurt. Because of this, I was able to love my son, Cole, with great vulnerability, clipping into Jesus by faith as I let go of my control. Losing him was not easy, but instead of plummeting to the ground with devastating consequences, I feel as though I have been let down with a gentle hand, more secure and measured than Chase’s auto belay. Which has given me reason to trust deeper and go higher; to live with greater boldness, courage and wholehearted vulnerability. And dare I say joy? Because this life gets fun when you’re not so worried about falling.

He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights. Psalm 18:33

jump catch
Sender City photo of someone else’s kid

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