They told me not to look down…yet I felt compelled anyway. I didn’t see a way up the almost sheer, nearly vertical rock face, so I looked down, hoping to see some way to move. That was a mistake.
I was just learning to rock climb as part of a mountaineering course offered by the Mazamas, a local group here in Portland. We’d driven to a butte in Washington to practice the skills we’d learned on easier terrain, and now here we were, climbing one at a time up a challenging wall.
In spite of being “on belay” I was still scared to the core. I’d ascended about 100 feet by finding tiny toeholds and cracks where my fingers inched in and held on for dear life. Ever so slowly, I’d find a hand hold and then a place for my foot, hoping that it would hold my weight. I inched upward, bit by bit, but still had about 25 feet to go to reach the top.
Far below me, at the base, was a huge pile of jagged boulders, waiting, it seemed, to impale my body if I slipped and the rope gave way. For what seemed an eternity, I searched for my next move. Everything was sheer. Where there might be a tiny handhold, there was no place for my foot. I couldn’t see a way forward…and panic started to seep in. People far below were waiting patiently for me to make my next move, yet I couldn’t move. I was frozen on the rock wall.
Then a verse from the Bible came to me. ”I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I repeated this in my mind, and a peace seeped in. It says “all things,” not “all things except rock climbing.” “OK,” I thought, “Christ’s strength can get me through this.” My concentration returned and the panic subsided. I saw the beauty of my surroundings, the incredible view from so high up. I reached out past a place that was slightly hidden from view and found my next move.
Each time I searched, I found a new handhold and a place for my foot. Bit by bit, I ascended. I was overjoyed…and so grateful…to reach the top and to have the gift of that verse. It’s helped me many times since.