105-And That’s How The Poison Ivy Patch Improved Our Lives

The lack of patience some people have in our current culture was slightly eating at my insides as I observed a local guide hopping over the four-foot gap to gain access to the top of our next intended climb site.  We were wrapping up our climbs on Guide Left and Guide Right to hand over the reins to the first-timers behind us, but now it was time to revamp our plan given the new observation that they were interested in the same chunk of rock as ourselves.  The guide book is the life-blood of discovery when it comes to rock climbing in the New River Gorge.  Determined to stay in range of what is called “Endless Wall,” we pressed on toward the next group of doable climbs for our diverse group of twelve, ranging from 3 to 60 something years old—Jen’s adventurous family invited us Fosses along to do just that—give them a crazy adventure!


I flicked through the freshly printed pages of book one until I came to the detailed access description of a wall we’d need to skirt to get to our hopeful destination called Fantasy Wall. Would Fantasy be worth a hundred-yard bush-whack through waist-high poison ivy?  It’s not the ultimate climbing fantasy that sends chills down my spine—the only spine-chilling energy I was feeling now was telling our group that we’d have to retreat and approach the site from the top side which would put us at a 7pm return time.  To my surprise everyone was all in, and with one swift group decision we were hiking the ridge trail, snaking our way to the ladder, which with any luck would be suitable for everyone to descend on the other side of poison ivy patch and continue our journey to Fantasy.  This ladder turned out to be two ladders, one roughly forty feet high and another ten-footer just down the couloir from the first.  The group littered themselves along the man-made staircase between two rock walls that ushered us to the belay station that would provide an extra safety measure as they climbed down the first steel ladder.


Time was not on our side by the time we all reassembled at the base of Endless Wall.  The length of the wall was appropriately named and the speed of our group combined with the obstacles we faced made the name all the more relevant.  Let’s just say that the “trail” was not what you’d find in your local park system—the rough terrain, poison ivy, and downed trees kept us at a nice… how should I say this… comfortable pace.  We indeed made it to the climbs that we set out to find, but they were only halfway to our escape ladders that would hopefully get us to our vehicles before nightfall.  I salivated just a tad and wanted to shed a tear as we said goodbye to two perfect crack systems that led the climber eighty feet up for a perfect single pitch trad climb.  Even the guide book called it one of the best of any grade.  Not today.


Long story short, we all survived the trek to the base of the next set of ladders, climbed out and were back at the Airbnb eating dinner by ten that same evening!  Not bad for someone who wanted to have an adventure!  Did we climb Fantasy?  No.  Did we eat dinner at dinner time? Nope.  However, when we reflected on the day our list of what we did accomplish was quite memorable:  we belayed twelve people down a huge set of ladders, saw some beautiful chunks of rock, explored the New River Gorge’s cliffs and overhangs, climbed back out and saw an amazing sunset in the midst of God’s perfect masterpiece we call Earth.  We laughed, talked, lent helping hands, and bonded together in ways that wouldn’t have happened had we a perfect plan and execution.  Adventure doesn’t come in a nicely wrapped gift box that effortlessly opens up at your beckoning will.   No.  Adventure is something that you get to experience when things don’t go exactly the way you imagine it in your head.


Life is an adventure—whether you think so or not God did not design us to sit comfortably in the safety of our homes and watch the world pass us by; unaffected, unmotivated, uninvolved.  Far from it!  The Bible is the beginning of an endless narrative that depicts mankind rising and falling, battles that yield to the power of God in man and His divine plan to ultimately bring us back to Himself through the sacrifice of His son Jesus in our stead.  We are a part of this narrative and our role is to be engaged, determined, and impacted while we daily listen and follow the voice of the Holy Spirit.   God wants to use us to change the world and this is nothing short of an adventure when you believe in and surrender to Christ and join God’s family!  You can plan to go climb Fantasy, but never see the poison ivy field around the corner, the rough terrain or know who will be in the party following your lead.  Ladders down, ladders up, cliffs, overhangs, and beautiful vistas will highlight the laughter, pain, bonding, and struggle as you grow together.  I know I’m running with this metaphor without really going into detail, but let God have his perfect work in you and get ready to have your plans changed.  We planned to climb twenty yards from our first location, making a nice simple day of it, but that unforeseen group sent us on a wild adventure we will never forget… and yes, dinner was very late.


Where are you at in life?  Are you sitting and waiting for the other group to climb so you can stick to the script?  Or did you just go back to the Airbnb and call it a day at two o’clock?  How about the ladders—are you stuck at the top second guessing the new plan and contemplating going back to wade through the poison ivy?  Or are you getting geared up to take the plunge and see where it takes you!?!  Regardless to where you are now, I implore you to simply ask God what step you should take next.  If you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you the Bible says in James chapter 4 and I have witnessed this truth in my life, my wife’s life, and it will be true for you as well.  It’s time to take the plunge.  Do it.