By Mariah Secrest
“Lean back, Mariah. Trust your equipment. Trust the one who’s belaying you.”
I glanced down over my shoulder to see Daniel grinning up at me from 80 feet below. Then I realized that may have been a mistake. For although the miles and miles of mountain range were breathtaking, I was above it all and hanging on by a rope.
“I am leaning back,” I said.
“No you’re not.”
This was my first experience mountain-climbing. And while I love being out in nature, scaling a rock face and dangling back down by a rope and harness felt anything but natural. My mind may have believed Daniel, but after 23 years of subscribing to the law of gravity my muscles were a bit reluctant. They didn’t want to let go of the mountain. While my grip might not have been completely trustworthy, it seemed safer than letting go.
I’ve done plenty of hiking before, and I have always loved scrambling up rock formations and exploring the overlooks and crevices and feeling my muscles in use. But without a rope, my former climbing attempts have always been weighed carefully in the “What can I climb with relatively no risk of falling?” category. Makes sense. Falling hurts.
My attempts to love usually also can be categorized in the “no risk” section . Sure, I’ll play around all day in the easy stair-steps. If you’ve proven yourself to me over and over again, I might even trust you with a secret or two. But only once I’m completely sure you won’t let me fall. Or I only give you enough so that if I fall I could catch myself and it wouldn’t hurt. If I don’t make the three-foot jump, I’ll probably get by scot-free. Nothing lost, really.
I guess I have previously thought that not relying on people is somehow a measure of devotion to God. (People let you down. God doesn’t.) What I had failed to realize was that refusing to enter into trust with another person was to stay on the ground altogether.
But what, then? Do I set myself up for falling? Read the Bible. History is full of people who failed, especially people who failed each other. Aren’t we called to something more stable? We are, but it’s not at the base of the mountain. It’s at the top, leaning back against all the laws of gravity, able to do something so liberating but so counter to what our muscles have always estimated, because we have One holding us up.
“It takes a couple good falls to learn to trust your equipment,” said one of the more experienced climbers.
It’s true. I did fall a couple of times, but my ropes were strong and my belayer was attentive. When I lost my grip, I didn’t lose everything. When my estimation of what could pull me up was inaccurate, I had only lost a little ground. By my second cliff, I was risking a bit more. I was still careful in my estimation, but less so because I was afraid and more so because I didn’t want to recklessly lose what I had worked up to.
In trusting people, I have taken some falls. And in so doing, I have found that God can be expected to catch me. A couple bumps and bruises will heal just like the ones on my knees and elbows from the climb. In my opinion, the experience was worth it. I am stronger, I am able to give more and do more.
“God loves you. He will catch you,” someone told me when I felt paralyzed by fear of screwing up. I had thought it was all up to me. That if I fell, I’d never get a second chance. Up on the mountain, I noticed that whenever I stopped I got scared. For the most part, it wasn’t muscle fatigue that kept me in one spot. It was fear. I actually underestimated what my body could do, because if I just kept going I realized it wasn’t as impossible as I’d once thought.
“Trust your equipment, Mariah. Trust the one who’s belaying you.”
I think I’ll go climbing again. And I think I’ll love again. Because the world needs it. More and more I’m just blown away by how essential love and hope are to the human soul. Many of us are still suffering from our falls, afraid to risk again or hope again. We must point them to the lifeline. We must know ourselves the trustworthiness of the lifeline.
Author C. Samuel Storms says in his book To Love Mercy,
“We can take the risk of vulnerable ministry to those who cannot be trusted, because Christ can be trusted! We can give without hope of return, we can serve without hope of being served, knowing we are secure in Christ’s love and are of immeasurable value to His heart.”
Mariah has currently landed herself in Tucson, Arizona, where she’s finishing a philosophy degree. She enjoys writing almost as she enjoys making music. Almost. You can visit her on Myspace at www.myspace.com/mariahsecrestmusic.