Updated: May 1, 2021
When Jesus saw His ministry drawing huge crowds, He climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to Him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, He sat down and taught His climbing companions (Mt 5:1–2 MSG).
As a Florida native, I thought the temperature was cool for July as I stood looking over a cliff at the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
My high school biology teacher, Clay Lindstam, had taken me and 12 of my classmates on a 32-day biology field study trip across the U.S. Camping every night except one, Lindstam led us on an adventure where we learned about flora, fauna, fossils, and friendships while getting our hands dirty exploring God's creation. We saw many fascinating and beautiful places, but none were more awe-inspiring than our visit to the Colorado Rockies.
Clay Lindstam, Ed. D.
We had come to a moment I had been eagerly anticipating since signing up for the class. On this day, I would get an introductory lesson in technical rock climbing by rappelling and climbing a canyon wall. After thoroughly going over the techniques and safety practices, Lindstam helped me to tie a "diaper seat" nylon band around my thighs and waist. He then attached a locking carabiner, a safety rope, and wove a rappelling rope through another carabiner.
Site believed to be location of our rappell and climb at Prospect Canyon (Chris Koslin)
Then came the moment of truth. I backed up to the edge of the canyon ledge and slowly leaned back trying to balance myself. Recalling the instructions I had been given, I then pushed myself away from the edge and began to fall only to return to the side of the cliff as I adjusted the rappelling rope. I repeated this process and was quickly on the floor of the canyon. What a thrill!
With exhilaration, I looked back up at the faces leaning over the cliff. Then I realized I had not thought about how hard it would be to climb back up. I released the rappelling rope and was left with the safety line securely attached to the carabiner on my waist. The confidence and fearlessness that I tried to always exude were being put to the test.
At first, there seemed to be no way to find a hand-hold, much less a foot-hold, on the canyon wall. After a couple of minutes of searching, all I could grasp were small edges in the wall. I clung to what I could and took a step and little by little, I began to move upward. At about 10 feet up, I considered how little was supporting my hands and feet and it seemed impossible to make it to the top with such a precarious hold.
Then I heard Lindstam shout, "You can do it, Bordeaux! We're waiting for you right here!" And then the words that removed all my fears, "I've got you!"
Someone above believed in me, was waiting for me, and assured me of my safety. That made all the difference.
Lindstam was not only my biology teacher, he was one of my cross-country coaches. Those who have run cross-country understand the challenge to overcome pain, finish, and finish well. Even though I never saw him run cross-country, he was dauntless and well understood what it is to face challenges, overcome pain, and achieve a goal.
Lindstam's enthusiasm was without limit and, like his smile, it was contagious. I vividly remember him finding his way to different parts of the course during practices and races so he could cheer us on as we passed.
That day in the canyon, he repelled and climbed when we had finished. He did this despite being held upright and enabled to walk by the steel braces on his legs.
So, his encouragement was not sentimental and superficial. This is a man I trusted completely. With him waiting for me at the top, I was determined to make the climb. Gradually, I progressed up the canyon wall with complete confidence in my teacher's ability to take care of me.
Many years later, I was telling my friend Rick Duncan about my plans to go to seminary. Rick was the Jacksonville (FL) area director for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He offered sound advice and one of the things he said was, "Go to finish--the view is worth the climb!"
To those of you who have placed your faith in Christ and are seeking to follow Him, I want to say the same thing, Go to finish--the view is worth the climb.
When I reached the top of the cliff that summer day in the Colorado Rockies I saw my friends and my beloved teacher smiling and congratulating me. So many years later, I look back on that long trip, the challenges we faced, and climbing that canyon wall was well worth all the effort I invested.
Prospect Canyon at the site believed to be where rappelled and climbed (Richard Fowler)
I could not have made it on my own. I had a wise and experienced teacher as my guide. I had come to know him and placed my complete faith in what he said.
In the same way, if you are a Christ-follower, you will face difficulties you never imagined. But remember, it will be worth it all when you see His face.
He's got you. So, keep climbing!