…let us throw off everything that hinders…and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV)
I was a competitive swimmer growing up. I started around the age of eight and swam nearly year-round until after my freshman year in high school. Life’s road led me in different directions at that point. I hung up my Speedo.
Like all competitive racing, the difference between winning a swimming race and not even making it to the medal stand can be hundredths of a second. When you’re young you can shave entire seconds off your time with small improvements of technique and strength training. As you get older and faster the smallest of details take on greater and greater importance. Swimmers learn to eliminate anything that might “drag” you in the water. That’s the reason for ultra-tight lycra suits, slippery skull caps, and shaved heads (the reason shaving my head bald to play Daddy Warbucks wasn’t a huge deal for me is that I’d done it before, shaving my head bald for conference and district meets). If the race is between two equally competitive simmers, one guy in a Speedo and the other guy wearing cut-off jean shorts, the guy in the Speedo has a huge advantage.
That’s the word picture the author of Hebrews is getting at in this morning’s chapter. No matter where I am on my spiritual journey, I have to recognize that there are any number of things which can create drag on my spiritual progress:
Relationships with crazy makers who keep me in chaos
Compulsive and addictive behaviors that distract me and weigh me down
Misguided priorities that take up my time, energy, and resources chasing empty things down dead-end paths
Filling my life with objects rather than relationships
Keeping myself so busy that I have no time for personal reflection and contemplation
This morning I’m reminded that no matter where I am in this spiritual journey, whether striking out on the dusty trail as a spiritual seeker or climbing the sheer cliffs of spiritual maturity, there are always things that weigh me down and hinder my progress. I just read yesterday of an experienced rock climber who dropped his cell phone from a thousand feet up a sheer cliff wall. Only then did he realize how much of a distraction it had been to him. and how it freed him to be the unhindered mentor and guide he needed to be for his fellow climbers.
In the quiet this morning I’m thinking about the things that might be hindering my spiritual progress. I’m once again committing myself to the never-ending process of identifying and throwing off those things that I identify as weighing me down.
Don’t worry. I promise you’ll never have to see me in a Speedo 😉
While in Colorado visiting Madison for Thanksgiving, I made a quit trip to Garden of the Gods with Taylor and Clayton. As we walked back to the car we caught sight of this rock climber making his way up one of the rock towers. It’s not something you see in Iowa…ever. It was a gorgeous sunny day and I thought it an interesting shot with the minuscule spec of the climbers green jacket against the vast natural colors of the trees, rocks and sky.
30 Day Blogging Challenge Day 15 (I’m half-way home!): The best thing to happen to you this week.
This week my son-in-law and I went rock climbing at Climb Iowa. I’ve always loved the thought of rock climbing. I brings back the boy in me who figured out how to stand a garbage can between our garage and the neighbors garage then climb up between the two garages by putting one foot on one window sill and the other foot on the other eventually scaling up between the two until I was on the roof. In retrospect, it wasn’t that huge of an accomplishment, but to a ten year old it was frickin’ Mount Everest.
I’ve rock climbed a number of times, but it had been many years ago. So, Clayton and I headed over to take the beginner’s class. We learned to tie on properly and belay one another. That means that while one of us was climbing, they were tied to the other who stood on the ground and managed the rope so that if you fall off the wall the other person locks the safety rope and won’t let you plummet to your death. When you get to the top, the belayer on the ground slowly lets you down.
It’s a bit tricky at first and the first time I got to the top of the wall I gave Clayton the appropriate command by yelling, “Falling!” Clayton is then supposed to say “Fall on!” to let me know he’s ready to slowly let me down. The first time, Clayton didn’t have the exact feel of how to do it and instead of falling slowly I fell rather fast for a terrifying ten feet or so before the instructor stepped in and helped slow the rope. It was scary for just a moment as I realized that my life was literally in the hands of my son-in-law (Was he wondering how much he stands to inherit if I kick the bucket?) 😉
I’m being silly, of course. We had an awesome afternoon together and after climbing several walls of varying difficulty, our arms and fingers were simply refusing to work. You will never find me out climbing sheer cliffs in the wild, but I found the safe and challenging environment of Climb Iowa to provide a great workout and a rush of boyhood excitement.
It seems it was good for me to go through all those troubles. Throughout them all you held tight to my lifeline. You never let me tumble over the edge into nothing. Isaiah 38:17 (MSG)
I have, on a handful of occasions, gone rock climbing. I went through very basic classes to learn safety and had the experience of working my way up a few simple rock faces. I enjoy it, though sIowa does not provide a plethora of rock climbing opportunities, so I haven't actively pursued it.
Even on a man-made climbing wall, however, you can find yourself high in the air. Your muscles ache and begin to spasm from the unique tension and demand that climbing puts on them. It would be easy to fall. That's why you should always be tied to a belayer who can ensure that, in the event of a fall, you will not fall far.
We all see our share of troubles in this life. It is a part of the journey. We live in a broken world with other broken people and we are bound to experience the effect of it. Sometimes life feels like a rough climb up a sheer face of nothing but troubling obstacles. But when God is our belayer we can trust that He holds the life-line and will not let us fall to our death. We may lose our grip and slip down the face of the cliff, but God holds tight so that we can approach the rock face once more, find our grip and begin the ascent again.