Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Hill Country Climbing 2014

"Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand." Proverbs 19:20-21

Stubbornness and self-reliance. Isn't that part of our makeup? I'll admit it, it's how I usually go about my business. And if we are being honest, it's how we all tend to work. There's this notion that we can use our own capabilities, judgment, and independence to successfully make our way through life. Even more, we're often really unreasonably unyielding and often persistently firm in the way we go about our plans. And although this our default modus operandi, we regularly end up seeing the same results in the different areas of our lives (i.e. relationships, careers, families, etc)...We have this Frank Sinatra way about us...We want to do it our way!

So how does that look for us? Have our struggles improved?.How are our marriages, addictions, and debts looking like? We somehow hold on to belief that we know best. That we can do this on our own. That we put ourselves in this mess and we can get ourselves out. Right? However, we just continue on, more stubborn than ever, doing the same things over and over again because of a belief in self-reliance. This is the same losing battle that have ended many of men who thought their own power is enough, but reality is...this fallacy leads to:

-frustration, road blocks, anger, defeat, confusion, narrow-mindedness, tunnel vision, stuck, falling, depression, and on and on and on... the end result is feeling completely shut down, lost, and insecure about what lies ahead because we often end up in the same place, that is, where we started.
There's good news though...we are not supposed to be self-reliant! We are not to make way in this world on our own. Despite what we learn, especially in this country...we are created to be exactly the opposite. God wants us to depend and rely more on Him. No matter how mature we are, or how much we think we know, we must rely on Him to see the route ahead!

Even more good news! God provides for us in our paths. These provisions come in many forms...and one of those forms are quite common...The person next to you! Listen to what they have to say, be open to their word, because it may be literally coming from God! It's true! The Lord gives us neighbors! People we call friends, family, and co-workers. People who are specifically put in our lives to help us "see" what lies ahead...We are designed to be in community, not independent of one another. In community, God speaks to us through counsel, through meetings, through groups, through friendships, and even through coffee dates with friends. He gives us insight and discernment to pass on to one another to hold each other accountable...to gain wisdom and find truth to guide us through difficulty.
The Lord teaches us:

"Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety." Proverbs 11:14

The people in your everyday are there to guide and see you through. To help you see clearly...and to keep you safe from the dangers of the world, which unfortunately includes ourselves!

So, if you bear with me, what I would like to do next, is attempt to use our Rock Climbing trip as an analogy to the scriptures above. So this will be my feeble attempt to do so:
What: Guys Climbing Trip

Where: Reimer's Ranch North Shore (Austin) and E-Rock (outside of Fredericksburg).
When: 4/25-4/27/14
Who: Austin Crownover (ARC), Jeremy Hendrix, Brad (Benny) Hardin, and Boom Boom's Beloved (Me).

Over the weekend, we were talking about how belayers are a lot like a golfer's caddie (Now I'm using an analogy for my analogy...what?). As I continued to explain the responsibilities and function of the belayer in relation to the climber...it dawned on me. The Lord is speaking to me right now! He is showing me the importance of surrounding myself with people (counselors) that will keep me safe, while moving forward towards the Kingdom of God and freedom in Him, or so I hope!

So, back to a belayer and golfer's caddie. For a non-climber, the thought of belaying may be to simply protect the climber from falling to the ground. Which, although very true, is only one of many things a good belayer does for his climber. However, most people who have never belayed a climber may not fully understand the analogy I would like to use. So I will use a caddie to hopefully demonstrate both a belayer's function and hopefully more importantly, God's truths for us in everyday living.
Proverb 19:20-21 states to, "Listen to advice and accept instruction..." A caddie's job is numerous. To the layman, a caddie simply carries his golfer's bag, cleans his clubs, and rakes his sand...to which these functions are true. But to a golfer, a good caddie offers so much more. A good caddie is aware of the challenges and obstacles of the golf course. He knows the lay out of the course, where each trap lies, from the smallest sand trap to the hidden hazards. The caddie knows the nuances of all 18 holes. In addition, he knows the best strategy to each hole. This includes knowing the yardage, pin placements, club selections, and the lies of the fairways and greens. But the best part of having a good caddie...is that he's not swinging the club, you are. Which means, he knows everything you know, but can remain objective throughout the round without the struggles of emotion and stress that could affect the outcome of each shot.  He's not dealing with the stress or pressure of the shot. His judgment is based on the information presented and experience gained on the course, not on the emotions of each swing. He's not having to balance what he knows is true within the laws of golf (measurements, club distance, wind, etc) with what he thinks he can do considering all the variables involved (trying to be creative)...then combine the two and hope to deliver a good shot. His ultimate goal is to see the golfer play well through it all.

The same is true about a climber and his belayer. Before a climber gets on route, he assesses the line he's going to climb. He does his best to identify his holds, and create a vertical map to the top. As in golf, there are hidden challenges and obstacles, runouts that will make your butt pucker, and tons of variables that will make you wonder why you even put on a harness in the first place. The belayer is there to help you through this...however; it's up to you to use your belayer. He is no different than a good caddie. He too can see the route you are on. He sees footholds from a better vantage point, sees how the climb is progressing, identifies the line taken and addresses where the best possible placements are to send the route. But if you choose not to listen to your belayer, he's only there to keep you from hitting the ground. That's it.
Back to Proverbs 11:14, which states, "Where there is no guidance, a people falls..." Back in Kentucky, Jeremy and I were climbing in Muir Valley and I was excited to get on this beautiful route. I had one goal in mind, just slap the arete and continue on up...route looked straightforward to me, so I just went for it. As soon as I got on route, I got stuck. Jeremy kept saying, "Alf, there's a foot below...you have a foot right there...an easy foot, right below you!" He kept telling me, but stubborn as a mule, I ignored his beta (advice) and tuned him out. I had committed to climb the route one way, and I was sticking to it. I thought my way of climbing the route is better. Sure enough, I took a whipper that left a bruise on my thigh and even a bigger bruise to my ego. Jeremy then climbed the route using said foothold and easily cruised to the top. I chose to ignore my belayer and his guidance for me, and it predictably ended in a fall.

Here's the thing about a good belayer. They always have a wider, more clear view of the terrain. They can see the climber, the direction of climbing, the finishing anchors, all the holds, and so much more...but most important, they have an objective view to the top. A climber is often focused on his next move...naturally more hyper focused (tunnel-vision) while making sure his feet don't pop off. In addition, a climber's judgement is often clouded due to nerves, heavy and persistent breathing, sweaty palms, and fear of failure/falling. The belayer does not experience any of these mental and physiological hurdles...which allows him to think clearly for the climber and give the climber good guidance, sound advice, and proper instruction as a climber continues his ascent.
But here's the thing, as in life, climbing can be a very stubborn, self-reliant exercise in futility. Often times, we do not follow through with the beta given to us by our belayer because: a) we think we know best, b) we don't trust our belayer's judgement, c) we lack faith to do what our belayer has asked, d) we just simply lack faith to climb the route, or e) all of the above! And really, when we choose to climb without instruction, advise, or help...the results are typically the same:

-frustrated, mental road blocks, anger, defeated, confused, narrow minded, tunnel vision, stuck, falling, depressed, and on and on and on... the end result is feeling completely shut down. Sound familiar?
Ok, so bringing it all back to full circle...a good belayer is like good counsel. They know the way, they have good judgment, are objective, and have faith that you can fight through the struggles ahead. They believe in you and will set you up for what's ahead! Or like the scriptures state, "Listen and accept instruction (from your counsel...so) you may gain wisdom in (or for) the future." Proverbs 19:20-21
So if we are looking for change...want out of our situation...or need direction...then lets stop doing what we have always done...and reach out to the people the Lord has placed in our lives. We need to trust in the Lord, for he knows the terrain...he knows the lay out of the course...he knows the hazards in our lives...he knows the cruxes and difficulties we face...he knows the direction to go...he sees what's hidden...and he knows how to finish. And even more, we do not have to worry about taking a fall with Christ...since he has already done that for us! Christ the Belayer!
But trusting in the Lord also and often means trusting in our given counsel. It is a truth already given by God in the past and present for the future:

Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future and to surround yourself with caddies and belayers of the Lord because where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety!

So what do you say? Let's stop taking fall after fall, and start relying on our belayers in life. Let's be patient and listen to their advice for us. Let's be open and willing to follow through with their instruction...even if we lack faith in it. If they point something out, and you don't see it, it's ok...have faith and trust in the Lord and in the people he gives you to get past the cruxes, so you can continue towards freedom. Chances are, you can't scale a wall on your own without consequence...so let's not make the same mistakes in life.

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