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A Ring of Safety

alec vanderboom

I went rock-climbing for the first time at age 15.

This wasn't the modern, sissy attempt of climbing on a rock wall in a gym with safety harnesses and a soft mat at your feet.

This was rock climbing, old school. Me. A gigantic 100 feet slab of granite. And a safety harness I knotted myself and chiseled into fresh rock with a hammer.

I attended my first rock climbing expedition with my United Methodist Senior High Youth Group.

It was a typical "Abigail Tries to Hard to Meet Jesus" fiasco.

I bravely jumped into a rock climbing expedition solely because the sign-up sheet has "Jesus" in the title. Only in the middle of the weekend, I realize that I'm way over my head. I was one of three girls with 30 upperclassman boys who are so excited to be scaling "real Rock" that they blithely assure our guide that everyone in the group has tons of experience. The boys insist we skip over all the easy and intermediate climbs and dive right into "impossible."

Which is how I found myself rock climbing for the first time, after a brief 3 second lecture on technique and safety measures, a cliff rated "extremely difficult."

I started climbing -Extremely Slowly. I shook so much from fear that I made miniature rock slides under my feet and hands. Eventually, I got totally stuck. There was a sheer slab of rock without any toe holds or finger grips for the next 8 feet. I came to a stop and hugged the Mountain with my face in total fear.

"It's not so bad," a helpful male voice shouted up at me. "All you need to do is crouch down on your ankles, make a big jump and grab that shelf of rock above you with the tips of your fingers and haul yourself up higher!"

Did I mention that I'm short? Did I mention that I'm not athletic? Did I mention that expecting me to jump eight feet up a mountain is virtually impossible.

I don't know how long I hugged that mountain with my cheek debating with the nameless male voices behind me. "I can't do that."

"Yes, you can! It's closer than it looks. It will be easy."

"Not for me!" Eventually, my legs got tired. So I closed my eyes and

LEAPT . . .

. . . . .and I missed.

I scraped my cheek against the rock and started hurtling downward. . .


I opened my eyes.

I was swinging completely upside down fifteen feet from the ground, my back against the mountain, my feet over my head. As soon as I started falling, my spotter had yanked my safety harness closed. My safety harness had held.

I was safe.

Falling that morning turned something around inside of me. I feel in love with rock climbing, and repelling (which is when you come down off of a cliff). Once I knew that my safety harness worked and I could trust my spotter, I was fearless. Mountain climbing became fun.

I'm flashing back to that moment, because I feel the same way after coming out the NICU. I'm braver now. Life is more fun. I still have no idea "how to do" my vocation as a wife and mother. I don't know what Christmas gifts to buy this year or when my three year old is finally going to allow herself get potty trained. Those everyday fears don't bother me so much now.

Thanks to the NICU, I know that there is a "Ring of Safety" around myself. God's got my safety harness.