Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Lock in & Go

The first time we went rappelling, I was absolutely scared out of my mind! Of course I couldn’t let anyone know it, I mean after all I was the Youth Pastor, and was the one that actually convinced the Parents of my students to sign the assumption of Death…I mean Risk form that even allowed them to come on the trip in the first place.

So I did what any self respecting, ministry minded, students first Youth Pastor would do…I volunteered to take pictures…for posterity!

The whole day, student after student stepped up, locked in, looked down and not only walked down the cliff, but actually bounded and sailed down the rock face and into the great unknown…it was the coolest thing to see nervous, timid and downright scared young people step up and face their fears and with an active understanding of what faith really is…step off and experience it first hand!

I was so proud of each and every one of those guys, especially as I thought and prayed for each one to be able to internalize this faith truth beyond the cliff of Thunder Buttress to the daily obstacles they faced back home.

The truth I wanted them to go away with is that in everything they face, their Faith can be solid in the one who does not move and is not shaken. That was the point, that was why we traveled hundreds of miles. That was the main reason why we came to Adventure Camp…or so I thought.

Now I was having a great time clicking pictures and shouting words of encouragement to my students, all day long I was perched on a rock out growth that looked back at the wall they were rappelling. It was a spot that the guides called “picture perfect” because of its ideal location, and great picture angle of the rappellers. I was comfortable, happy, and having a great time until the words I knew were going to come at some point in the day, finally did.

The words that every Youth Pastor eventually hears as he is taking pictures and “allowing” his students to experience the elements that “they” need to take part in to overcome “their” fears and learn something about God. Those words were…”Pastor Brent are you going to Rappel?

There they were, flapping in the breeze; the words I was hoping wouldn’t come, because they are words that demand an answer. An answer that better be to the liking of the speaker because your reputation, trust and honor are on the line.

The answer that is expected to that question is nothing less than, “why of course I’m going to rappel, I just wanted to make sure that all of you had the opportunity to experience God’s creation first…I didn’t want to rob you of that chance!”

That’s what’s expected, but what I delivered was something like this…”Um, yeah I was planning on it, but I got so caught up taking pictures that it looks like we’re just about out of time for the day (glancing at my watch-less wrist), so I guess I’ll have to wait until next year.”

Phew, I dodged that bullet, they would surely understand my reasons…I mean I “really wanted” to rappel, but I really wanted THEM to experience it more.

Well, as you can probably guess that answer didn’t fly, and actually was met head on with a return reply that went something like this…”Yeah ok, we understand that you want to take pictures and all, that’s a good reason…unless of course you’re not man enough to put on the harness, lock in the carabineer and jump off into the wild unknown...”

Yep, I knew it had come to that, in fact it was inevitable. The thing that made me mad with myself though was that I made it come to that. I should’ve jumped right in from the get go instead of slithering to the back of the line and shuffling off to picture perfect to record everyone else. I should’ve been man enough right out the gate especially since the first one over the cliff was a freshman girl!

So, disgusted with myself, and shaking in my boots I answered the reply “of course I’m man enough (glancing again at my watch-less wrist)…let’s do this thing!”

I stepped up to the cliff edge and put on gloves, my helmet, the harness, locked in the carabineer and asked the guide a few burning questions I had going through my mind at that particular moment. How much is this rope tested for? How deep do the roots in the tree that this rope is tied to go down? How much weight can you bench press? (She was like 5 foot 2 inches and weighed maybe 110 lbs…I’m 6 foot 4 and weigh significantly more than she does), and how long have you been helping dangling rappellers?

All valid questions in my mind and all questions about faith. Faith that I needed to experience first hand if I was going to appreciate the adventure.

She was great, she answered all my questions to the affirmative and said, “This rope, this tree, this harness and carabineer are all designed to do their job which is to lower you down this cliff…it’s up to you how well you test them…you can either slowly, carefully and boringly walk down the cliff and make it to the bottom, safe and sound. Or you can lock in and just go at it with rock and roll abandon and experience the ride of your life…either way you’ll make it down safely that’s not the point…Once you step off and experience faith, you can either live it tame or live it wild…it’s up to you!”

Wow, that was great advice, and so true to the Christian life as well. Our faith in God is the first step; He’s unmovable and won’t let us fall. What we do with our lives after that point is the real question, and as I hung over that cliff ledge, scared to death, knees shaking, mind racing I thought about what a great visual example this was of what faith (stepping off) and living daily by faith (bounding) are all about.

Even though it took some prodding and challenging of my manhood to get me to the edge, the words of the guide and the watching eyes of my youth group compelled me over the edge. The last thing I said before I stepped off was “how many bounds to the bottom is the record?” One of my students yelled back…Dude, I did it in 3”…I nodded my head, grabbed the rope, looked down, stepped off and said 3 huh? We’ll see about that!” And off I went into the great unknown, and sure enough I had the ride of my life.

By the way, I didn’t break the record that day, but I came close…I did it in 5.

When I got back to the top, I was met with cheers and applause and I realized a very important lesson, it’s not enough to talk about it, there’s much more power when you experience it and discuss the applications together.

You gotta have faith that’s true…but I think you need to experience faith with others to really let it sink in and change you, so don't be afraid to Lock In & Go!

By the way, guess who the first one to rappelling cliff was every year since that first time...let some one else take pictures!

1 comment:

  1. i remember those days of WV.i loved it so much and learned a lot. once u came to our church i was the one taking the "picture perfect" pictures. lol. i really liked how u put everything together. it is so true with faith. when i was there the biggest fear was the swing cuz i had to trust this one rope that everybody helped me get up to the top and i was so afraid that once i pulled it that the line would snap or was not going to hold me once coming down and it took a while and i just had to have faith that it was not going to do any of that. i pulled it and oh man i screamed and it was so much fun and i just wanted to do it again.