115-There’s A Time To Rappel And A Time To Just Be…
I punched in my passcode again, feeling the weight of my own, self-inflicted guilt for my dependence on my personal computer and connection to the world, held nonchalantly with a single hand. Compared to most, my display of apps doesn’t even require folders for organization because they are so few, but ranking among the highest in priority is that weather app. Where’s the adventure in this? I thought as I wrestled with the fact that we could be setting up four separate tents in a downpour. God, let this blow over! (Planning an adventure takes a great deal of decision making, plan b’s, c’s, d’s and e’s, and bad weather can amplify the dread for many rookies and veterans alike). Not my will but Yours be done— but really God, evaporate this storm! As I continued to check my phone while we still had the invisible lifeline to information, the forecast changed—and quite radically might I add!
With our tech tucked under the seats in the van, five teens, two adult leaders, and two guides tromped out onto the packed soil, dodging between the poison ivy, our heavy-ladened packs hauling everything we would need to adventure hard for the next two days. After arriving at what we hoped was an epic rappelling opportunity, Chase and I made sure the crew was set for a long, quiet rest then headed back up to the top of the cliff in search of an anchor. The dense Mountain Laurel was nearly impossible to push through as we diverted around the thorns by using downed trees as trailblazers. After nearly an hour of searching, backtracking, and cycling through our “plan b’s” we decided on our route. Now to construct a safe anchor from the available, live trees. There we’re not a ton of options, but the extra bulk of a 300-foot static rope verses the normal 150-footer amped up our safety for the group by creating more anchor points. I felt confident that we had found a winner. Fern, one of our adult leaders cautiously said today would be the day for her first rappel. In a matter of a couple hours Chase and I had the entire group, one at a time, tied into the belay line (where the guide has control), set up on the rappel line (where the rappeler controls their descent), and backing down a beautiful, vertical cliff with an amazing view of the class III and IV whitewater river nestled deep below the wild, gorge walls of the Big South Fork.
Dinner comes late when your schedule is at the mercy of the wilderness, the ball of fire that breathes life on our planet dropped below the horizon before we could find an adequate campsite. Even in the midst of the headlamps that acted as personal spotlights for each of us, the glow of the camp stove encouraged our stomachs that it wouldn’t be too much longer til dinner. One thirty in the morning still yielded plenty of stars, although it wasn’t as clear as I would have preferred; then my head hit the makeshift pillow constructed from my pile of clothing layers. The sound of rushing whitewater soothingly made sure that only an actual rock was sleeping more soundly than myself.
Perhaps you have experienced a similar night sleep in the wilderness, or at a quiet camp ground. Or, you’ve had the thrill of backing off of a cliff where your faith in the ropes and anchors were put to the ultimate test. Or maybe it’s a simple dinner with an old friend to sit and chat, eager to hear each other’s stories. Each component is a special and unique experience on a Project Forty trip, including the idea of just “being” with others. As we sat around the small stick-fire stove, circled-up on our pads to keep our heat from conducting into the cool earth beneath us, Fern finished her story. “When I was fifteen, I went on a two-week adventure in the U.P. One of the challenges was to rappel. I tried over and over, while the group cheered me on and waited for us to regroup at the bottom… but I just couldn’t do it. The leader had to take me down the long way around and I remember him being so gracious and encouraging. I wanted to beat that rappel and fear, but I couldn’t. This trip I finished what I started.” (Matt’s paraphrase) Fern shared her vulnerability with the entire group, which sparked genuine questions about life, faith, and how to walk this Christian life out. That last night was not a late one because we were hiking in the dark, looking for the perfect campsite, cooking a needed meal, or rappelling big cliffs. It was late because we were all just present. No other people, no notification chirps, no weather apps to check, no agenda or plan b’s to conjure up… just nine people, present in the middle of creation.
When was that last time you were just present? You have a story to tell, so tell it and be present with someone this week—then tell us about it!