Challenge Tower, part two


Last month I began telling you the story of my adventure of climbing The Challenge Tower at our Lutheran camp in North Carolina.

I began by saying, “It’s called The Challenge Tower. And for good reason.”

I told you that it is built with the largest and tallest “telephone poles” I’ve ever seen, and that it rises to something over forty feet. I also added, tongue-in-cheek, that what it takes to make it to the top is something like American Ninja Warrior skills. And, of course, that is still an exaggeration of almost Biblical proportion, but it helps you get the idea.

The most important detail is that every step, as frightening as it may seem, is guarded in absolute safety by the belay system and the trained team of counselors supervising the experience. A belay rope looped high above is connected to a tight-fitting body harness and kept “nearly-tight” at all times by the belayer-counselor on the ground, preventing a fall even with missteps and mistakes by the climber.

O.K. I’ve explained that in such calm and confident detail, but I must tell you, when you start up that tower with tricky climbs and “tight-rope walks,” it’s quite an adrenaline rush. And, oh yes, it is A Challenge.

When my last article ended I was about three quarters up the tower. That was good. What was not good is that I made the mistake of looking down. Gazing to the ground from that height, my head got dizzy for probably only an instant, but it seemed an eternity. And I had what I consider the most difficult section still to go.

Fortunately, after a heart-felt prayer and some great cheering from my church youth, I was ready for that last ascent to the top.

That last section is a vertical ladder with the rungs quite far apart and with rope as the sides of the ladder, so it requires big “climbing steps” as the whole thing swings about. But I made it to the top rung with my feet and with my chest at the top platform of the tower.

And by the way, the top platform has no guard rails. Everything is still dependent on the “savior” of the belay. So, with my chest at platform height, I reached about two feet in from the edge where there is a small cleat to grab, and with more struggle than I would like to admit, I belly flopped myself onto the top platform and just lay still in a moment of both relief and jubilation.

Here’s the part I haven’t told you about yet. The way down is a zipline that goes from the top edge of the platform, through a clearing in the trees, and finally settles you to the ground. The tricky part is getting around a large pole out to a tiny little foothold from which to step off “into thin air” for the zipline ride. I managed my way to the foothold, gave my call to zip, and took the leap of faith.

That was really fun. The kids cheered, the hard part was over, and the cool mountain breeze felt really good on a warm summer morning.

Once on the ground and released from all safety equipment, I had the preacher’s dominant thought, “That’ll preach!”

So, what’s to preach? Here are a few “points of the sermon.”

Life is certainly not always easy. In fact, often life is a challenge, quite a challenge, and a challenge that seems just too hard to survive and conquer. But there are great truths overriding all of life and specific actions that make us more that conquerers.

Comparing the Challenge Tower to Life, the most important comparison is between the belay rope and God Himself. To ascend that challenge tower, it’s all about the belay. The belay provides safety and security. The belay is always there both high above head and connected directly and firmly to the climber. With the connection and knowledge of the belay, the climber can do things he or she could never do independently. The presence and knowledge of the belay gives the climber confidence, assurance, and hope for the victory. It’s all about the belay. Climber, trust the belay.

In comparison, to live life fully victorious in this world and even live on eternally in heaven, it’s all about God. God The Father has created us, and sustains us, and cares for us. We do experience the sorrows of this world, but God never leaves us. He sees us through. God is connected directly and firmly to us through His Son, Jesus Christ, who gave His life on the cross to save us, and who rose again so that we too can have eternal life. In Christ we can do great things we could never do by ourselves. Our faith in Christ gives us confidence, assurance, and hope for the victory. It’s all about God and His Son Jesus. To all I say, trust God.

I can’t wait to go back to The Challenge Tower next year. Amen!

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