We recently took the boys to an indoor climbing place to celebrate a birthday. After watching a video explaining the use of their auto-belay system, we harnessed up and clipped in. The mechanism overhead ate up the slack in each of our lines, allowing us to climb freely without assistance. The boys were NOT daunted by heights, so they happily kicked off the wall and rode the auto-belay system down long before I was finished.
Once I reached the top, I looked around and felt a bit dizzy. I was higher than I expected to be, and for the first time I noticed that I could feel no tension in the belay line. I panicked, for perched there at the top of the wall I suddenly realized the gravity of my mistake. I tried to lean back to put tension on the line, to feel it catch me, but the line gave me as much slack as I desired, in order to allow me to climb freely.
I reasoned with myself. The line will catch you, just let go. The kids have all done it. It’ll hold people far heavier than you. It’s perfectly safe. But no matter how much I reasoned, my emotional trust just would not line up with what my head believed to be true. I climbed all the way back down and determined to stay put.
The boys had other plans, though. In order to not ruin the birthday fun, I found myself on the wall again and decided quickly to prove the line this time—from a height that could produce only minor injuries.
When I let go, I fell. It was just a bit—just far enough to see that there was no hope of grabbing the wall again to save myself. And that’s when I felt it. The line caught. Glory be! It lowered me quickly and gently to the ground, and I landed in a jumbly mess.
This little test led me to believe that I could trust the line completely, and that’s how I found myself in the middle of a fifty-foot wall. I overcame obstacles and climbed higher than before, but eventually my racing pulse and ringing ears made me stop. I looked down from thirty feet in the air and the vertigo pushed me back to the wall. I had gone too far. Time to belay down.
Except I couldn’t. Fear kept me pressed to the wall.
I had had too much faith in my faith and not enough faith in my tether.
Isn’t that how it is with Jesus, too? Far too many times I have climbed to precarious places full of my own self-confidence and been left clinging in fear instead of resting in the One who holds me.
Belief alone isn’t enough.
“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?” James 2:19-20
Faith is more than just believing—it’s resting in the work of Christ and letting all that we do flow from being in Him. It’s letting go of the wall and clinging to the tether.
In my precarious place up on that wall, I had no choice but to trust the auto-belay. I was incapable of climbing down on my own. With a few deep breaths, I pushed off the wall and held tight to the line that promised to hold me.
And I felt it catch.