Many years ago a friend convinced me to try rock climbing. I knew how to rappel, but climbing up a rock face is very different than bouncing down one on a rope. He selected a cliff face that was about fifty feet from the ground to the top; set the top rope anchor to a tree near the edge of the cliff face; and climbed it first to show me how it was done. Piece of cake he said.
The hardest move of the climb was about ten feet up. I climbed up to a rock corner where I was supposed to stand sideways with one foot on a sliver of rock less than half as wide as my shoe. That was the easy part. Then I had to STEP UP onto ANOTHER sliver of rock and slip my left hand into an envelope-like fissure, where friction from pressing the back of my hand against the rock envelope would give me the balance needed while I lifted and secured my right foot on the same tiny rock ledge and found something for my right hand to hang onto. Did I mention that the ledge was LESS THAN HALF AS WIDE as my climbing shoe?
I tried repeatedly and failed to secure my right hand or my right foot. My friend continued to urge me to try again. So I did and failed again; and again. Now I was tired. We had an argument because he wouldn’t give me enough slack in my safety rope to come off of the rock face and reach the ground. Angrily, I agreed to try one more time. In the midst of thinking this was never going to work I completed the move and was standing on the small rock ledge … with both of my feet and my right hand secure. After I caught my breath, the rest of the climb was the piece of cake my friend said it was. About 30 minutes later I tried the climb again and though I still struggled with the same move, I made it with less of strain because of the knowledge and experience that I had been able to do it.
This climbing experience became a word picture for others in my counseling career to never give up—to keep trying to reach and achieve your goal even when you’ve failed multiple times. It has been a personal lesson of the importance of perseverance and the encouragement of others in growth and change.
The words of Jesus to the father of the boy who would fall repeatedly into the fire speak deeply to me now, for I see myself in the father: “And Jesus said to him, ‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:23-24)
And Paul’s declaration in Philippians 4:13 is one I tell to others and remind myself of from time to time when I need to: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
I haven’t done any rock climbing in about twenty-five years. But the last time I went was with a guide in the Adirondacks and I climbed the 700 foot rock face of Chapel Pond Slab. The memory is still with me as is the memory of my first rock climb. The first one was the hardest. And if I had given up, I would have never reached the final one. Don’t ever give up.
Have you had a similar experience that taught you the value of never giving up?