4 Things We Learned Rock Climbing

Over the summer, we carried 25 young people & adults (and met up with 25 more from Northport and 9th Ave in Haleyville) to Climb Nashville for an indoor rock climbing lock-in. Teens typically get excited for lock-ins of any kind. But we had a particularly fun time climbing and “hanging” out together.

All 50 of us got together around 2AM and sang a few songs, then discussed what things we witnessed throughout the night that could help us in our spiritual lives. Here are five of the things we talked about as a group:

1) We need others to do difficult things. The only way I’m remotely safe high up on a wall (with no padding below) is if someone else is below belaying for me. A belayer uses a clip that utilizes gravity as a brake in case the climber slips off the wall. He or she just hangs there until they start climbing again or are let down slowly by the belayer. So, first of all, we need someone else to make sure we don’t fall. Next, we need the encouragement provided by the belayer and others on the ground. We heard the sound of “you can do it” and “hang in there” throughout the night. Hearing positive words of praise helps us reach the top. Finally, we need others to help us find ways out. It’s easy to get so focused on everything going around you that you don’t see the next hand or foot grip. But the person below—who has a different perspective—can see things you don’t see. He or she can help you navigate out of a difficult situation.

Similarly, God has never intended for Christians to navigate through life alone. There are times we need one another to keep us from falling, “whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death” (James 5:20). We also need encouragement daily from one another, “exhort one another every day…that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). Finally, we often need the advice of others because they can see thigns we don’t see, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future” (Proverbs 19:20).

2) The best time for distractions is not while you’re on the wall. One of our teen girls was climbing while her older sister belayed for her (I won’t mention names). When the younger sister was almost to the top, her older sister below screamed, “Did you remember to get the cooler off the bus?” When you’re confronting fears and reaching new heights, the last thing on your mind is whether or not you “remembered the cooler.” It’s easy for us to get distracted spiritually. We can’t afford to get distracted by criticism, hypocrisy by others, frustrations, or fun as we work in the kingdom. Nehemiah recognized this when he told Sanballat and Tobiah, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3). How many times have we abandoned the work of the Lord to check if we “got the cooler off the bus?”

3) We learn best by doing. The Climb Nashville staff taught the group of belayers in about 20-30 minutes. They utilized a hands-on approach and made the students put into practice what they learned in order to be certified to belay. In a more traditional classroom setting, it may have taken much longer to instruct that group of people about procedures and potential problems. We do a good thing by emphasizing Biblical learning; we need to teach the Bible in a classroom setting. Many who neglect this opportunity weekly should re-evaluate their decision. But we must also never forget that we grow most and best by daily doing what our God teaches. “But the one who looks into the perfect law,the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts,he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:25).

4) It’s not the real thing. Indoor rock climbing is an exciting thing to do. The night we spent doing it allowed us to challenge ourselves and have fun doing so. It’s a great way to learn and gain experience in a controlled and safe environment. But it’s not real rock climbing. We don’t actually go anywhere. We get to the top, then turn around and slide back down. Likewise, some of the things we do within the church and especially in “youth ministry” are intended to train young people and families in a controlled and safer environment. They’re still very real experiences, but they’re not intended to be the end in and of themselves. We should pray for opportunities to put the spiritual habits we build into practice in the world around us. “Pray also for us, that God mayopen to us a door for the word,to declare the mystery of Christ” (Colossians 4:3).

I Can’t Come Down

Nehemiah was used to facing criticism and taunting. His task to rebuild the walls and the city was great, but it was not popular with everyone. From the start, he and the Jews stared objections in the face and kept working, kept building (cf. Neh. 4:6)

Imagine when the detractors—foreigners from Samara and Arabia—play a new tune that sounds like peace? “Come, let us meet together,” they said (Neh. 6:2). What would you have done as the leader of this amazing effort of rebuilding? How would you have responded to the possible ‘repentance’ of your enemies?

Nehemiah exercised godly wisdom and knew they were still out to destroy the mission. He knew they wanted to ambush him. So he declines. Notice the brilliant answer,

“I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3).

He could have been wrong about their evil plan to kill him; but Nehemiah asserts that even if they were truly offering peace, it wasn’t as important as the great work he and the people were doing on the wall. Nehemiah faced an important decision. But it was one he had already determined by priority.

Doing the Lord’s work will always invite detractors and doubters. A growing and thriving church faces more criticism than a stagnant one. Faithful families are questioned at every decision, as people look for the smallest inconsistency. If your focus is upon what’s right, people will always hurl distractions toward you.

And if you’re in the people-pleasing business, you’ll listen.

You’ll want to gain friends. You’ll want to scratch their backs so they’ll keep scratching yours. You never know when you’ll need their money, influence, or connections. Unfortunately, many people, homes, and churches make important decisions based on the happiness of the certain people. Unfortunately, many come down off their walls of purpose to answer the soothing sounds of pleasing everyone.

But God’s people, God’s homes, and God’s churches make decisions from unchanging principles in his word. They know that God and his people have had detractors from the beginning. They know that God loves every person, but has never violated his perfect character to please or silence his critics. They know they’ve been given a critical mission. They know they can’t come down.

Let’s commit to “staying on the wall” together. Our children, the church, and the Lord’s work are too important to “come down” to engage in the insignificant.