36-A Moment Alone With My Creator
Okay everybody; remember that I had one more story? Well, here you go:
It’s the end of June and Kentucky has tried to conquer us with its wind, rain, thunder and powerful bolts of destructive lightning… fail. We survive and press on! The mob twenty persons strong, marched across the valley floor and up to the summit opposite our start day. It’s time to celebrate. One last cloudless night on the ridge; the storm cowardly ran away and now it was our time to shine.
Across the deep valley I strained my eyes to spot the large, stand-alone tree and rock nubbling that identified the rappel site from day one. We assembled a small recon team to scout out the uncharted trail to lead us to the other side. Flies attacked us from every side, as we took hit after hit! “Let’s run,” I suggested as we tried to not only escape our enemy, but make good time as well. Within the hour we established our new camp location as well as a route to the rock climb across the way. “Good work, men” I reassured the recon team, who slaved with me in the heat to secure the proper route.
Now, to reap the rewards. I found a nice patch of soft, warm sand, right on the edge of a hundred foot cliff. This was the best of both worlds—my damp boots and socks came off and I enjoyed the sandy rock on my bare feet for the next 5 hours while I belayed kids up and down the wall. It was freeing, hanging off a rope and leaning out over the edge to catch a clear view to the bottom. One by one, down and then back up, each student made his way through the maze of holds and cracks the rock had to offer them. I enjoyed the continuous view, the company of students, and the excitement in their eyes as they attempted an entirely new challenge before them. I was most certainly satisfied.
However, there was one thing that I had not been able to do up until this point. Actually climb or rappel anything! I lowered and raised people and packs, but never myself. The 180-foot rappel taunted me as we closed out the day with some excellent climbing and fellowship… and let’s not forget the 50 pancakes that Bill cooked one at a time. Props bro.
The sun dipped low on the horizon and my time arrived. Bobby walked over with a Nalgene of water, pinching a small branch of leaves that I assume he used to keep the flies at bay. “Bobby!” I said. “Why are you carrying around a branch of poison oak?” This was the first real change of facial expression I got from him in the last two days and we all had a little laugh as I quickly reassured him that it wasn’t really poison oak and not to worry. Bobby, Adam, Tim and I wandered over to the rappel site and set up a couple lines—one for me to “play on” and the other for the three guys to anchor off to so they could look over the edge and into the deep, dark, abyss. By the time the lines were secure, Mars was bright in the sky and many other illuminates in the cosmos came into view to say goodnight.
With the guys set and secure at the edge, I passed them by and dropped over the edge until my feet cut away from the rock and it was just me and the rope… and the open air all the way around me. The cliff undercut so much so, that I couldn’t make out the rock at all, only the darkness that settled in around my body as I slowly spun down the rope. About 60 feet down I put on the brakes, leaned back in my harness and took in the spectacular view. Beyond man’s reach were an unfathomable number of lights, putting on a display of beauty and awe, just for me. The moon wasn’t full, but bright, creating shadows of the landscape beneath my trusty harness and myself; then came the photographers. The trees blanketed the valley floor but among them were hundreds and hundreds of flashing lights, fireflies seeking another in a beautiful display of florescent clicks on a camera. I felt as if for the moment, all of creation turned its attention toward me and I could only respond in one way. I began to thank God for His beautiful display of affection for me, His protection, and His joy that swells up within me when I run these trips. I could hear my voice echo across the valley in an anthem of praise to the One who deserves every ounce of every moment that we breathe. After a few minutes of conversation with my greatest love, I became silent once again, allowing my sense of sight to hone in on the fireflies one last time before my ascent back up the rope. A unison, “Amen,” softly drifted down to my ears from my three students waiting for my return.
There’s usually one moment where I can break away from the group and just take a second alone with God and be reminded of how incredible He is, His plan for my life, my family, and His grace to allow me to work with these teens in such a magnificent medium… God is good. When’s the last time you have snuck away and simply thanked Him for how incredible He is?
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