She was only a 90-lb schoolteacher, but she signed up for a one-day rock climbing course in Berchtesgaden, where I was teaching. Generally speaking, women are much better climbers than men, at least in the beginning. They seem to have a better sense of balance and don’t try to muscle their way up a cliff as men do. I have my students begin by climbing sideways along a cliff face just a foot or two off the ground. It takes the same holds and techniques to move sideways as it does to climb up, and the results of a fall aren’t nearly as severe.
She was an amazing acrobat and could cling to the tiniest holds with ease. Finally, after they learned the rope work, it came time to scale their first face. It was a little less than a hundred feet high, with a big pine tree growing on the top. I climbed first and then anchored the rope to this massive tree. I sat on the cliff’s edge and slowly took in the rope as the students climbed up. It was perfect. If a student did slip and fall, they couldn’t fall anywhere. The rope ran tautly to me on top. There was no slack, but heights can add a whole new dimension to the equation.
She began well. As long as she was only a few feet off the ground, she was fine, but as she climbed higher and higher, I could tell she was becoming more and more afraid. With only ten feet to go, she could climb no higher. Panic filled her eyes. It was honestly easier than anything she had done earlier in the day. She looked at me and pleaded. “I’m going to fall! I’m going to fall!” I held the rope tightly and tried to reassure her. “I’m going to die!”
“No, no. You’re fine. You can do it! I have you,” I said.
Then it happened. She closed her eyes and let go. I could see it in her face. In her mind, she was hurtling towards the rocks below. Her body was slowly turning as the ground reached up to meet her. At any moment, her short life would be over. Why was she so foolish as to sign up for climbing lessons? Why couldn’t she be content to teach her students in the safety of her classroom? “Why? Why? Why?”
Finally, she opened her eyes, and I smiled at her. She hadn’t gone anywhere. The rope held, and I winked. She looked around embarrassed and quickly scrambled to the top.
I think life can be like that. We build barriers in our minds. We focus on the obstacles and not the opportunities. God is good! Our Father loves us, and the Holy Spirit empowers us. Jesus has shown us the way. It is only left for us to follow. The Apostle Paul wrote:
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). We can’t do it by ourselves, but “through him who strengthens me.”