I hang on tight to the colorful hand grips that are screwed into the wall, questioning myself for a 10th time since I started this climb whether I attached my harness correctly. Did I secure the clippy-Carry-bean-whatever? Is my harness tight enough? I hope this auto-belay is working right.
The funny thing about indoor rock climbing (and maybe outdoor too) is that you take all this effort to climb up a wall, but the goal is never to stay at the top of the wall. The goal is to slap the top of the wall, say “look what i did!!”, and then let yourself drop while someone (or something) lowers you to the ground again.
I don’t have a person helping me on this particular wall. I have an auto-belay. Now, Auto-belays are pretty darn amazing! For those of you unfamiliar with these little devices, auto belays are automatic rope pulley systems. It let’s you climb without depending on a second person to hold you up. As you climb, the rope gently pulls back into the device (at the top of the wall), but as soon as you fall, the device releases the rope very slowly so that the climber is gently lowered back to the ground. You can see a picture of one below.
Anyway, back to the story…I’m 30 feet in the air, having EASILY climbed to the top with the skills of a female Tarzan (it may or may not have been a beginner’s wall). I’ve done my part. Now, if I ever want to reach the ground again, I have to trust that this auto-belay is going to catch me. Is it supposed to be making that sound? I wonder what it feels like to break a leg. Would my insurance cover that?… Without looking down, I take a deep breath, lean back, and let go…
If you’re hoping for a medical drama, you’re not going to read about one here. Perhaps a story about a surprise trip to the ER would be more interesting, but fortunately for me, the small auto-belay proved itself reliable and slowly lowered me to the ground. After that first success, I had less and less doubts as I climbed other walls. I now knew from experience that the harness pulley system, whether secured by a machine or a human, was perfectly reliable. Knowing I would always be caught, I found myself taking more risks as I climbed. And the more risks I took, the more I fell. And the more I fell, the more I learned, and the more I learned, the farther I was able to climb!
Life transitions feel a bit like rock climbing to me…I’m not crazy about big changes. They make me nervous, and I find myself repeatedly questioning whether my “security system” is really going to hold me up if I fail. Will my friends think less of me? Will my parents still be proud? Will my savings be enough? Thankfully, my best security system is God. And He’s even more trustworthy than those auto-belay systems.
I think through some of my biggest transitions: moving to America, going to college, switching majors, moving to Thailand, switching from Suave to Head&Shoulders (that last one was less dramatic 🙂 )
Those transitions were scary, OF COURSE! But I was secure the whole time, even during the moments that didn’t go according to plan. Believe it or not, it was never my dream to start college in the wrong major and then lose a major scholarship. God not only rescued me from bad falls, but He transformed those moments into something better than I could have imagined.
I think it’s significant to note that even with harnesses and someone to catch your fall, rock climbing is not some cushy activity where you will never get hurt. I’m not an expert…really, I just started last month and I’ve only been twice. I’m pretty much only able to climb walls that are completely vertical (no overhangs allowed) because I’m not even strong enough to do HALF of a pull-up. As a beginner, climbing these minimally difficult walls, I still managed to gather some scratches, bruises, and blisters. Sometimes being caught from an unexpected fall still leaves you ramming into the wall. Even so…
I am thankful for those opportunities to see God catch me time and time again. The initial fall is still scary, but whatever the circumstance, I am continually reminded that He is trustworthy. He gives me the confidence I need to take those risks that allow me to go farther than I’ve dared to go before.