Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hitting the Wall

Have you ever "hit the wall"?

I did in mid May, just two weeks after entering into a new call in a new church. The worship director of the church asked me if I wanted to go rock climbing with him. And even though I am not hugely into rock climbing, the thought of, spending a day with this fabulous man made the decision easy. Jim is a dedicated climber, and he wanted to show/share with me a spot very special to him - Eleven Mile Canyon.

The granite in Eleven Mile Canyon is amazing. On both sides of the gravel road and Eleven Mile Creek, the rock rises straight up in great, bulbous, hard granite, actually beckoning to climbers to come, give it all up for the sake of discovering what may lie at the end of the day. Jim had in mind a route called "'The Staircase," which is known to the locals as a"classic" route. It is a 2 and 1/2 pitch climb of about 300 feet in elevation, with a degree of difficulty that is graded as 5.6 to 5.7. I had done 2 pitches on the Kiener's route up Long's Peak that were between 5.3 and 5.4. But The Staircase went beyond my comfort level, beyond the familiar. It scared me, how straight up it all was.

But after Jim took the time to orient me, teach me, retrain me, and moved up as the lead climber, I was ready to follow him. And as I moved up the crack we were climbing, I had two competing awarenesses: I was capable of what this climb required, and I was hoping it would soon be over. The cost of climbing in this much fear, with the potential for failing, was high. And for all the exhilaration I was feeling, it was at least offset by the sense that the unknown that lay above me might expose some desperate weakness and lack in me.

When we reached the end of the first pitch, and Jim prepared to move on up above, he asked me if I was up for it. And everything in me screamed "I've had enough." Enough bottled up fear, enough risk of failure, enough exposure to airiness and to my weaknesses. Enough. I hit the wall. Enough.

But as Jim encouraged me to take the second pitch, I reluctantly relented. Against my feelings, I started up after him, wishing we were going back to safety. More on that in a subsequent blog.

The point is that most of the Western Church, most of American Christianity, in fact, has hit the wall. It is a powerful, persuasive, hidden, formidable, confusing, dominant. It is partly the product of a consumerism that so infects the whole culture, including the Church, that EVERYTHING is about our comfort. It is so pervasive and impenetrable that very few even seem to know it's there. And when we hit it, we all almost universally want only one thing. . . to turn back to what makes us feel better.