Before the pandemic, I used to love climbing the rock wall at the TCU gym. Climbing for me always feels like an exercise in trust. It requires me to listen to my body, and to trust that it will carry me. However, I am not the only person involved. When climbing the wall, you always have a partner, someone on the ground who is connected to your rope. This is known as belaying, and it is absolutely essential to the climbing process. This is another place where trust is crucial.
I first began climbing when I was in college at UNT. The rec center had a track on the second level that wrapped around the two-story tall rock wall. Upon my initial (and valiant) effort utilizing this track, I discovered a quarter mile in that I cannot run. I descended the stairs, and turned my gaze towards this intriguing wall. I found a pair of climbing shoes and a harness, and was approached by a stranger who would become my first climbing partner. I began scaling the wall with little regard for my climbing partner, self-assured that I could traverse without assistance. However, I eventually became tired, unsure of myself, and painfully aware of the height. I clung to the rocks with trembling arms, petrified to move. Then, I heard the voice of my climbing partner.
“You’ve got this,” he said.
“I’m afraid I’m going to fall,” I replied.
“Okay… then fall.”
He gently explained that he was connected to my rope, and if I fell, he would catch me. I didn’t know how to trust this person whom I did not know, but my arms were shaking and I couldn’t hold on any longer, so I let go. He was right, I dangled on my rope as he leaned back and supported me, all the while encouraging me to rest as long as I needed to, and then start again.
Many of us have carried our burdens in isolation. We live in a society which prides itself on individualism. We are navigating a pandemic which has kept us apart, whilst grappling with the heaviness of daily news. Our arms are clinging to the walls of our lives, but there are voices calling out to us, from the Divine, and from our community.
Parker Palmer writes in his book Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, that “we need not carry the whole load but can share it with others, liberating us and empowering them. We learn that sometimes we are free to lay the load down altogether. The great community asks us to do only what we are able and trust the rest to other hands.”
Beloved community, if your arms are heavy, if you are unable to move… then fall. You are held by a covenant of love, and a community which is here to catch you. Rest as long as you need to, and then start again.