by: Joel Bates
Sometimes in order to really get your point across you have to go through the pain. I was 8 feet off the ground and the landing looked reasonably soft so when one of our new summer interns claimed she had me on belay, I decided to put her to the test by falling. As I hit the ground hard, the dull pain in my back caused me to question the wisdom of my tactic. I shook off the pain and tried to keep the anger at bay as I rolled to my feet. The group of surprised summer staff came to my aid asking if I was alright, everyone that is except for Bekah. She stood in horrified paralysis as the climbing rope lay limply at her feet. She was fully aware that she had failed miserably at belaying me from a fall. Still shaky, I re-explained with intensity how to belay someone, making sure you take up all the slack preventing a grounder. Though the instruction was painful for both of us, I knew she would not forget the lesson.
A few weeks later Bekah and I were at a climb-site working with a group of students. While the students were having a heyday with the thrill of rock climbing and rappelling, I noticed one of the adult sponsors eyeing the climbs nervously and trying to avoid an invitation. In a quiet moment I told her that I thought she should try to climb a route. Kathrine looked at me like a startled child and just shook her head with absolutism.
“Why not?” I asked.
“I tried climbing once when I was younger and I was dropped.”
“Wow, that sounds pretty scary.”
“Yeah, I had to spend three months in physical therapy.”
Correction, not just scary, but serious. “Would you be willing to try again?” I pressed.
Kathrine looked with great apprehension up at the rock wall, her face drawn and pale. She didn’t say anything, and I let her think it through for a moment. She looked at me, her eyes glistening with emotion and fear and nodded her head. We stepped toward the climb together, the climb that Bekah happened to be belaying.
I reassured Kathrine that we put the DM staff through strict and rigorous training to become more than just reliable at belaying people, the staff is trustworthy. Bekah began hooking up Kathrine’s harness to the rope going through a mental checklist.
“Bekah, Kathrine needs your best effort today. She’s been dropped,” I said.
Bekah froze midmotion, her hands still clutching the carabiner she had screwed shut and looked directly at me. The memory from a few weeks previous of me falling to the ground on her watch came instantly to her and I didn’t need words to know what she was thinking.
“Bekah is one of our best belayers,” I said. “She has learned how to hold people tight and keep them from falling.”
A slight grin formed at the corners of her mouth as Bekah resumed the climbing contract with Kathrine. Soon Kathrine had touched the top anchor and was backing down the rock. “I’m trusting you!” she said more as a warning to Bekah than a statement of fact. Bekah responded with poise and professionalism bringing her safely back to terra-firma.
I side hugged Kathrine, “You really got redemption back from your traumatic experience!” I said it to Kathrine, but winked at Bekah simultaneously. They both found redemption of past traumas that day.
God’s grace is like this. He’s discipling me as a beloved son, but I strike out, mess up, and drop valuable things He’s wanting me to hold. His voice is so kind, though, kinder than my own to myself, as He gently helps me pick up the pieces, put things back together and keep growing. The process He takes us through of training, grace, redemption and victory are pivotal components for making us into members of a body that is dependable, trustworthy, and able to hold others up and even hold up the name of Jesus in this world that needs to know of his victory over sin and death. If you’ve dropped someone or been dropped, there is hope in Jesus greater than your failure or trauma. Whether you relate to Kathrine who faced a fearful choice to trust again or Bekah who questioned from past failures whether she was trustworthy, King Jesus offers you redemption.
Come along side us as we journey in and out of the wilderness, discovering our Creator in creation.