Showing Them The Ropes

Showing Them The Ropes

By Clinton R. Brown


Not long ago, I took my youngest daughter to an indoor rock climbing gym in Rhode Island. Once we were there and geared up, the attendant gave us his standard oration on climbing safety.

On the lower walls it was okay to scale the surfaces without a rope (“free-climb”), but for the higher levels it was required to use the safety ropes that would gradually lower us to the mats below if we were to let go of the wall.

Our instructor gave particular emphasis on checking and testing to be sure we had the ropes actually attached before assailing the higher walls. A climber had recently reached a certain point near the top and pushed away from the wall expecting a gradual descent as the safety rope mechanism let out the slack. At some point on his rapid way down he must have realized that he had failed to attach a rope to himself! He survived the fall, and was taken by ambulance for medical evaluation.

I was reminded of this when I read the illustration of our lives as a ladder in Henry Blackaby’s book, Experiencing God. Our lives are like vast climbing walls that we must strive to continue to climb because—due to the element of time—the lowest footholds fade away. If we make no effort to survive and no one helps us, we fall off the wall. Eventually, everyone will get to a place where they can no longer climb, or their hands or feet slip and there is nowhere left to grab.

It is not a perfect analogy, but it seemed to lend itself in many aspects to the challenges of life. Often there is an easy set of handholds and footholds (like steps) to make our way along. Sometimes climbers give others a hand up; other times climbers have little regard for those around them or will even use them to advance themselves.

The most important aspect of the analogy is the rope. The connection we have with our Father through Jesus’ sacrifice is our safety rope, so when we inevitably lose our grip on this life we will be lifted to safety. Also, if we pay attention to this rope in life, it will guide us or even lift us to handholds that we couldn’t see or didn’t think we could reach.

As we look around, we see the world is full of climbers. Many do not realize the importance of being connected, or believe that they can just connect to a rope they carry themselves and attach to the fading handholds. Others think they will risk free-climbing until it looks like the climb might get tough, though they never know when their grip will fail.

Anyone not sure their line is securely connected via the Savior, needs to promptly seek out someone to “show them the ropes.” As people firmly connected to God, we need to follow where He draws us, then take every opportunity to join Him in helping others stay on the wall and help them become connected (and connectors) as well.

It is terrible to imagine how it felt when the person in the gym let go and realized he was not connected. How much more appalling to realize how many people each day slip from this life with no mat in sight, while you and I knew or suspected they had failed to establish a life-saving relationship with God.

Joining God in making these connections is what it’s all about. Let us each pray that we watch for handholds that lead to such opportunities and keep the focus of our climb on reaching others.


       Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17)

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