76-If Your Palms Aren’t Sweating, Keep Reading…
My eyes intensify and my blink-rate noticeably has slowed down, waiting for the cool Fall breeze to force a rapid twitch to keep my focus on the book in hand. The pounding muscle in my chest that keeps life flowing through my body is bounding, perhaps nervous as my brain, as logical as it usually is, is currently absorbing and interpreting the words on the worn page: “Classic. This route ascends the intimidating dihedral and roof system left of the previous routes. Take the chimney up to the beginning of the roof then set a natural anchor for the belay. A #4 Camalot works great here. Climb the hand crack out the roof then keep a lookout for a hanging belay. Continue up through a finger crack in a dihedral then step off to a ledge on the right. Friction your way to the top.” The building moisture on the glossy page indicates that this climb has captured my innate sense of adventure, mixed with a spoonful of healthy fear and pinch of appreciation for those brave souls who have proceeded me and penned some details in the 2nd edition Red River Gorge Rock Climbs (most read book I’ve ever owned, second only to my tattered NKJV Bible).
Jungle Beat 5.9+ was beautiful, inspiring, and intimidating all at the same time. That little “+” sign at the end of its rating gave me a special tremble that starts in my knees, travels up to my core and can be seen in my neck and shoulders should you happen to be paying attention. My body feels like an earthquake has struck, but from the outside nobody ever really knows that my nervousness takes on physical form. The plus sign comes with a grim warning from the guys who bagged the first ascents on most of the classics in the Red. I met one particular legend who was taking on these bold cracks from the ground-up while I was in diapers. Ron Snider looked at me and specifically said regarding the book I just read from, “Beware of the pluses.” His voice resounded in my head while I reread the description, looking intently up at the rock from its base, staring as if to see each hand-placement before I reached it.
Rational Matt steps into the thought process, reasoning that a fall would mean a nice clean descent on what seems like good gear. No dangerous rock outcroppings to slam into, only open air. Another chill rushes up through my muscular system and lingers this time as I imagine the rope tightening up on a single cam that is lodged into a crack in a massive chunk of sandstone, extreme downward forces driving the 4 lobes of the cam tighter against the walls of it’s current home. Faith is a funny thing. I can see the cam, I’ve used the cam and fallen before. Mechanically, I have all the spec on it and how much force it can hold (way more force than I will ever produce!) and yet inevitably my nerves get the best of me and I bail on attempting the Jungle Beat 5.9+. To this day it awaits me, a 180 feet of beautiful sandstone crack that needs more attention.
My hope with this very accurate depiction of my internal journey prior to a climb is to make your palms sweat just a little, if you’re able to be in my shoes. Another palm-sweater for me is stepping out in faith to do what God is directing through His Holy Spirit. Jen and I are convinced that His Spirit is leading us to join a church re-launch in the City of Flint, Michigan. God is more faithful than any cam I’ve ever tested, and a fall here would land us in the gracious, loving arms of our Father that we long to be closer to. This morning we will be introduced as being apart of the vision team for the upcoming transition of Holbrook Avenue Church of God; a multicultural experience propelled by the LORD to make an impact on an un-churched population. Like psyching up for a new climb, we are tying in, if you will and getting on belay for the Fosses next adventure. Please pray for us as we embark on this journey and go places physically and spiritually we have never been. This will open up a whole new avenue for Project Forty as we turn to those in true physical and spiritual need and attempt to love them the way Christ has loved us.