The Crux of the Matter

unnamed One of my favorite passions, both in theory and practice, is climbing. As a youth, magazine pages displaying the likes of Conrad Anker, Lynn Hill, and the late Alex Lowe, littered the back of my bedroom door…  The sheer rock faces, the vistas, the physical and mental gymnastics it not only provides but demands, all inspired me. I pursued the training heavily during my late teens and early twenties, but my actual adventures were few and far between.

This past December Norman-town was gifted with the opening of a bouldering gym, which happens to rest less than 4 miles from our house. I in turn gifted my family at Christmas with an annual membership. Upon the start of our patronage at Climb Up I was quickly brought to the point of realizing that the recent years had been all theory and little practice. I had less, much less, strength and endurance than I once had. My skills had been left out to pasture, and the mental chess match that gives the sport a beautiful character was not as enjoyable as it had once been. I’ve spent a great deal of my time falling to the mat, and for all there to see. It has been humbling, frustrating, and revealing. Despite it all, I find myself returning to points of failed attempts and looking up, hopeful…

This situation aligns itself congruently with my family’s current route in life…

It has now been just over five months since my wife had a stroke, which required surgical intervention. She has not been left unscathed, and our little family has not either.  This December Crystal and I celebrated our 15th anniversary. In some regards, I have been brought to the point of realizing that in much of the last 15 years, love has been all theory and little practice. This. This event and the months that have followed it have showcased my weaknesses; especially to the core group of people I call family. This too, has been humbling, frustrating, and revealing, albeit in a more significant way. This display of weakness goes well beyond physical ability and mental sustainability, for it overtly reveals my heart; my sinful, selfish, angry, impatient heart.  Our house has served as a unnamed-1display case of ugliness. And Sunday mornings are the nadir of every week. It’s the time when I feel as if my desperate grasp is in vain, and I feel myself slipping, and not onto a cushioned mat but into a darkness full of anger and unbelief. But wait for it… For this is where the “dyno” (climbing parlance for a power move requiring significant effort that covers a greater than typical span.) occurs, and it has nothing to do with my effort. Thankfully. The hugs from our community of believers who truly love us, the Word faithfully preached, the gospel presented as a constant need, and our gathering at the table to commune, not just in remembrance of our savior, but with the bestowing of his effectual grace. WOW! Did you just see that move?! Each week our family’s grasp is sustained. We still hurt, but we are not without love, not without grace, not without hope.

Hope during a climb is that moment when you’ve just dominated a crux and you know you are going to hit the top. Alex Lowe, my all-time favorite athlete, once stated, “It’s the journey toward doing these harder climbs that really gives value to the whole activity of climbing.”  We are finding this true of love and hope, via Christ, via you, City Pres, and via a multitude of others during this moment of maximum effort at a definitive crux.

We are progressing from #effthisstroke to #shutupstroke to #thankyoulordforthisstroke.