Tuesday, June 7, 2011


I've had a couple opportunities to go rock climbing in the last month. Nothing hardcore, but once on an indoor climbing wall and once on an outdoor one. Both times I was attached to an auto-belay, which was a new experience for me.

With a regular belay system, the climber is wearing a harness, and has a climbing rope attached that runs above to the top of the climbing wall to a pulley, and the rope passes over the pulley and back down to the belayer - someone who may be another harnessed climber. The belayer makes sure that as the climber ascends, their belay rope is held taut, so that if they fall, they can be caught and supported by the rope.

With an auto-belay, the climber's rope runs up to a machine that winds the rope as it feels slack. So, it has a little delay in responding, and it responds to a set tension in the rope.

It had been a while since I'd done any rock climbing, so I rediscovered some things this time around. Balancing. Carrying your weight or reaching with your arms vs. your legs. The decision to look down or not. And, when you reach the top, being willing to let go. I don't remember having unusual problems with letting go of the handholds as a child. Though I don't remember, I can reasonably assume that the people who ran those rock walls reassured me that I would be safe letting go. This time, with the auto-belay, I had reassurances that the machine would keep me safe.

Over the past months I've become aware that I have a hard time letting some people go emotionally. It was interesting to see the same problem when referring to rock climbing. The same phenomenon has occurred over the years as I learn how to have faith and trust in Heavenly Father. So, I wanted to think about some of the comparisons.

I'm not sure how letting people go works with it... Still figuring that one out. But what is the fear behind letting go at the top of a climbing wall? Losing control is the most pressing matter for me, I think. I'm still in the youthful mindset of invincibility sometimes, so I don't really worry about death or serious injury resulting from a faulty belay. But not being able to catch myself is worrying. And that's the problem I had with faith as a teenager; surrendering my iron-tight grip on security and back-up plans and hypotheses took real wrenching effort. I was a chronic worrier about the future. If I trust Heavenly Father with my life, that means that I don't need to worry when things go awry from my plans, because I know that He is in control and is taking care of me. Shifting from trusting MY control to trusting HIS control.

Now, here's an extension from that, bringing in the human vs. auto belay aspect. I felt significantly more comfortable with the human belay. Humans are flexible and responsive. The auto-belay has automatic responses based on particular settings. The former feels more real and more capable of keeping me safe and maintaining control of my descent. It's easier for me to have faith in God as I come to understand who He is. He isn't some nebulous power in the universe that might or might not rescue me depending on His mood or my standing on some esoteric righteous-meter. He is my Heavenly Father; as such, He is perfectly compassionate and loving, all-powerful, and all-knowing. He's better than a human belay, and capable and willing to catch me at the perfect moment. Sometimes He lets me fall a little, because I learn from the experience. The point is that I am perfectly safe in His care, and I can trust Him in everything; I can let go with no worries, because He is in control.

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