Building Faith and Rock Climbing

When I was a kid, I remember my mom, in a moment of parental frustration, asking me “if your friend jumped off a cliff would you???” This conversation was meant to knock some sense into me, and teach me to make my own decisions in life, especially during those rocky teenager years! “No! “ I emphatically replied trying to convince her I did have functioning brain cells! “Of course I wouldn’t jump off a cliff!” I am pretty sure my friend’s mom had a similar conversation somewhere along the line with her daughter, so I will have to apologize to Ms. Sharon, but I did just that, I convinced her 46 year old daughter, my friend, to jump off a cliff with me!

I think one of the best gifts one friend can give to another is to empower them to do something they never would have done. This one has been on my bucket list for years, and I am always trying to find new ways to be there for my friends. Sometimes it is a shoulder to cry on, sometimes it is an honest conversation delivered with love, sometimes it is a giggle late in the night, or a tear over a child, but sometimes you get to help a friend step way out of their comfort zone and become someone they never thought they could be.

I have a friend who has been there for me for hmmmmm, 37 years. Good Lord, that makes us sound old, but it is true. We have been pals since third grade. We have laughed, cried, worried, and prayed together over everything from math tests, boyfriends, husbands, parents and children. She has a kind heart and a groundedness I respect. I however, am not grounded, especially lately when I have been busy jumping out of planes and climbing mountains. Sometimes she needs a little more of my adventurous spirit, and sometimes I need a bit more of her groundedness. A couple of weekends ago, I convinced her to jump off an 80-foot tall cliff! How’s that for adventure!

I convinced my friend, and her husband, to go rock climbing with me, since I had such an amazing time last fall at Garden of the Gods climbing up 80-foot red rock monsters and then subsequently rappelling off them (i.e. Jumping off a cliff!!)

My friend showed her long forgotten adventurous side when she gamely agreed to my invitation, surprising me to say the least! I thought there was no way I’d get her to climb a sheer rock face and then back off the top. Miracles will never cease to amaze me, because somehow my crazy midlife crisis has started to rub off on her and she said YES! I like to think of it in this way, maybe I inspired her just little bit to rediscover her wild side and rediscover the girl within the mother. Maybe, I showed her it is ok to be a little crazy, and do something that you did not think you could ever, in a million years, actually do! I like to “spin it” like Charlie Sheen, and say that maybe I empowered her to see what she was made of!

Ok, so now I have managed to give myself all the credit here, and in actuality, she did it all herself. She showed up, she strapped on the harness and slipped into the climbing shoes. She then watched and listened to our guide KO give instructions and demonstrate how to rappel down once you made it to the top. Then …. She did it!

I watched from below in amazement as she proved to herself she could tackle a huge challenge, she could use her own strength to pull herself up, and most importantly, she could problem solve along the way. This is the surprising part of rock climbing, it is almost entirely about problem solving and not giving up, much more so than extreme physical ability or strength like it looks.

What rock climbing boils down to, is learning to view the world a little differently, seek out options, try new things, have faith, and then when it doesn’t work, take a little step to the side and try something new. It is not about always knowing what to do, where to put your foot next, or about always selecting the best route in life. It is about trying, having faith and then trying again.

Look at it this way, when you are halfway up a huge rock face, and all you can see is what is 2 feet in front of you, it can really be overwhelming. You can quickly feel very stuck and doubt the decisions you’ve made that got you to this spot. When you look down and everything appears tiny, and it seems very far away, you can get very dizzy. When you look up and the top of the rock seems a world away, and you think you’ll never get there, it is hard to not loose yourself in anxiety.

This is such a good analogy for the real world. In my life, when I get in these scary new situations this is what sometimes happens too, I worry, I second-guess myself, I stress myself out. When I allow this to happen I then find myself frozen in uncertainly. Nothing happens. I want to know the right thing to do before I do anything. I have to stop myself and realize- I have a faith that is strong enough to get me though the tough spots in life.

When you are rock climbing the overwhelming lesson learned is that freezing in uncertainly is not an option. You have to keep at the problem; you have to take steps that sometimes are not very secure. In fact, sometimes you can barely find a toehold, and it seems that it will never support your weight. The amazing lesson I learned, was when this happens, the best thing to do is go for it! Even though you are sure your toe can’t support you weight -go for it and go for it fast. When you throw your weight into the next move and go fast, without any hesitation, it is amazing what happens! You body creates momentum, and you fly past the insecure part to new and unchartered territory, and usually you land where there are all kinds of new options! It is like a whole new world opens up the minute you have enough faith to just go for it, even if you have all kinds of doubts! Suddenly, you realize you made it! You are on top of the world, a world you yourself conquered.

It was a great day watching my friend experience this magic, and I hope she felt a little empowered, and has a new set of beliefs for herself. I hope she found that getting yourself out of your comfort zone every now and then feels great. You might even be amazed at yourself when you find yourself at the top!

Way to go my friend, you did it! I am proud of you!

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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