Monday, April 23, 2018

On Belay with Shelby Mathis

I am incredibly excited to add a new Blogger to my rotation. Shelby Mathis will be posting every Monday. I'll be sharing more about her in the future. Stay tuned!!!

"On belay?" a climber asks of her partner on the other end of the rope. They're both still on the ground. The climber is asking, "are you ready to catch me if I fall when I'm up there?"

This brief exchange opens the line of communication between the climber and her belayer. The rest of the commands will be single-word shouts, rope tugs, and hand signals. The rope is in the belayer's hands, but she is in control of what happens next.

"On belay," the belayer assures. This "on belay" is a touchstone. It is when the climber decides if this security is enough, and if it is, she answers, "climbing!" This is the moment when the ascent begins.

For me, this also is where I have to stop thinking about what could happen to focus on what is happening. Being belayed is not meant to be the hard part. The climbing is the hard part. I switch gears to be intentional about what I'm going to do to not fall off this wall. The word "fall" has to remain on the ground too, or so will I.

Because climbers have one job. Don't fall.

That looks a lot of ways: careful footwork, redundant anchors, calculated gear placement. The most important thing is trusting the rope to my belayer. I won't ascend if I'm unsure the rope is what is going to break my fall.

Climbing in Clear Creek Canyon, Colorado. Photo credit: The Evoke Group
I still fight security. I wrestle with safety. I suppose you may not believe that if you heard of the thousands of vertical feet I've climbed over the years, but it's true. I'm a chicken. I'm not a hardcore climber like my husband, Lane. But I am hardcore into the lessons of faith and endurance and growth that climbing imparts to me.

In this way, I think climbing and life are the same: we are held, even when we think we're falling. We can know we will be caught before we even slip up. We have assurance this gear system will not falter or fail no matter what mountain we've been asked to move or which walls we've been asked to climb.

We are always asking, "are you going to catch me if I fall?"

On belay?

Rappelling in Smith Rock State Park, Oregon.
I spent the first two decades of my life "climbing" without a belay. By that I mean I was just going about life without real purpose or intention. Without security. Never really safe. When I was 21, I met my Creator and realized I was already tied in. I finally got to stop second-guessing that I was being belayed on any real lifeline. 

And so, I got to get on with climbing. REALLY climbing. I don't have to waste precious time and energy wondering, "on belay? will You catch me when I fall up there?" The answer now is always, always of course. This security is enough.

Climbing in Smith Rock State Park, Oregon.
Even when I'm scared, I'm secure. Even when I do slip up, the rope's tension will find me eventually. I can hate, hate, hate the sensation of falling and failing, but I'm trusting my Belay. Even when I can't see Him, He's got me. Even when I can't see the anchor above me, it's still my aim.

When I'm already on the wall now, I can triple and quadruple check that my knot is still secure on my harness. I can check my end of the system. But I don't get to control it all. I don't have to. My one job now is to not fall and to cheer on the climbers to my left and right to keep putting one foot above the other, reminding them they can do hard things and may fall but will be held.

So now, "on belay" is my prayer. "Climbing!" is my baptism into trust and surrender. And so we climb.

I hope you'll join me at this little crag over here every week where I share how I'm learning to be intentional to not fall off my walls, trust the great Belayer, and use too many climbing/life metaphors!

Climb on,

Climbing in Clear Creek Canyon, Colorado. Photo credit: The Evoke Group

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