On the Line

Can God be found hanging from a rock?

Everyone experiences that moment in life when one questions life, faith, trust. At that moment, we look for reference points and people who can give us directions, points of views, words to be able to unravel our questions, desires and whatnot. With regards to faith, one always hears beautiful words, including great examples of saints or biblical characters. But sometimes we’re just bogged down in some dark moment, or just plain sad, and everything appears unbelievable.
Talking about this, I’ll share some of my current hobbies: I really like the mountain and a few years ago I also started climbing, at first in the gym and then out on rockfaces. Now, although it’s nothing extraordinary, every now and then I go to a cliff close to where I live to try do some rock-climbing.

However, since I started climbing, to date, I find a really clear and amazing link with spiritual life: what I do and live speaks of God, of my relationship with Him and with others.

Let’s start with the rock itself. Biblically, it’s always an image of security, of refuge, of the Lord who never abandons. Nothing to do with the sea, which drowns you and turns you into food for the “sea monsters” (Thank goodness I know how to remain a afloat!). But this does not exclude that fear which, latently, lives in our hearts: the fear of dying. Yes, because we’re all capable of jumping over a small wall. But when you find yourself thirty (or more) feet above the ground, with nothing below you, you start to consider the matter differently.

The fear of death is then accompanied by all the other fears: being incapable; erring and falling; not trusting the rope, your companion or the rock. From a vague sentiment, the tremor becomes stronger and stronger. It takes over your heart, your hands, your legs… You are on the rockface, OK, but for how long?!

Things work kind of similarly with the Lord, and with our lives. We understand what we are doing, and we wonder about our abilities but also about fragility. Fears start to creep in and everything becomes increasingly uncertain.
The first spontaneous thing that come to mind is to cling on. The tenacity helps, but only if it helps to move forward; standing still in tension, instead, consumes all the energy, exhaustion takes over and, in a vicious circle, it increases the fear, the attachment and so on and so forth. The person who climbs, however, relaxes, tries to keep the arms stretched, to move his feet just like in a dance. The fatigue is there, the difficulties as well, but they do not deplete you.
Another key element is the rope. It does not tow you, it does not lift you, but it allows you to give it a try, to trust yourself and the person keeping you safe. It also allows you to err without dying, causing you to “fly” in the meantime. The final test is the descent: you have to relax, let yourself fall whilst someone else supports you and gets you to the base safe and sound.

I think that many of us try fighting against God, with the desire to save ourselves, to achieve perfection by ourselves, to fight with our own strengths the many Goliaths that surround us. Then, tired, we give up, relax and, instead of falling screaming into the void, we are lowered gently like half-asleep children on the bed. The spectrum of fear dissolves. Death, much invoked in the fatigue and despair, gives way to life.

Every time I go climbing, I always re-live this experience again, this trip that always seems new. It always surprises me. Like the fact that the Lord who supports me, seeks me, regardless of my shortcomings and fears. He always takes me through the traverse on the rock I see, He pushes me to the top without dragging me, giving me full confidence and supporting me in my flights, so that I can resume from a safe point and overcome the difficulty. I hope that many others may also regain this confidence. And why not, maybe also desire to climb!

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