El Capitan

At the recommendation of a friend, I recently watched the documentary Free Solo. The film chronicles the attempt of Alex Honnold to free solo climb the side of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. That means climbing the side of this massive rock with no gear, no ropes, nothing. Just his hands and the shoes on his feet. In other words, if he sneezes and loses his grip, it’ll be the last time he ever sneezes. Or breathes.

It was a fascinating film to watch, only interrupted every five minutes by my wife saying, “He’s insane.”

As for me, I get the thrill of climbing in Yosemite. After all, I’ve done it too.

Wow. Did you also climb El Capitan?

No, but I did climb at Yosemite.

What did you climb?

A rock. But it was a big rock.

I had taken a group of students to do resort missions one summer at Yosemite, working with children and assisting a small church right outside the park. On a free afternoon, our host taught some of us how to climb and rappel. He took us to this large boulder. I quickly climbed the 40-foot side of the rock. I found that quite easy, but I had to get down by rappelling. Our host served as the belay man. The belay man is a critical role; he was on the ground holding the other end of the rope which was attached to the harness—which was attached to me. He could control the descent, keeping me from falling if need be.

The problem I encountered was that my belay man would not ease up on the rope and let me descend. He kept yelling up to me, “Lean back.” To which I yelled back, “I am leaning back.”

He still wouldn’t budge on the rope. We obviously had different definitions of leaning back. He wanted me to do something ridiculous and lean waaay back until I was perpendicular to the face of the boulder. This felt extremely uncomfortable because I had to totally trust him. If he sneezed and let go of the rope, it would be me in trouble. Yet, when I leaned completely back, I rappelled like a professional—all forty feet to the ground.

When rappelling, you must put your faith in another person, so it better be someone you can confidently trust.

God may ask us to do something that doesn’t feel natural. It takes us outside our comfort zone and requires us to trust Him, to lean waaay back and trust that He’s got us. That was certainly Abraham’s experience when God called him to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. That didn’t make sense in the moment, but Abraham had trusted God before, and that faithfulness led him to trust God once more.

In my very brief experience rappelling, I learned what it really means to trust someone. And when I did, the thrill was exhilarating. When Abraham trusted God completely and offered his son, he also experienced the thrill that comes with obedience. God interrupted Abraham and provided a ram to sacrifice instead. And in that moment, Abraham was surely thrilled with this new revelation of the God he had come to know and love.

“And Abraham named that place The Lord Will Provide, so today it is said, “It will be provided on the Lord’s mountain” (Gen. 22:14).

God blessed Abraham’s obedience, and He will bless yours too. You just need to lean back—waaay back. It’s OK, because He’s got the rope and He’s not letting go.

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This post supports the study “Confidence in Times of Testing” in Bible Studies for Life and YOU.

Join Lynn Pryor and Chris Johnson as they discuss this topic.