In June 2017, 33-year-old rock climber Alex Honnold scaled El Capitan. That’s a 3,000 foot granite rock in Yosemite National Park, widely considered the most challenging wall in the world.
He was the first person to make the climb “free solo”— with no equipment or ropes — at one point hanging from just his thumbs 1,000 feet above the ground. He lives most of the year out of a van, a lifestyle known as “dirtbagging,” which he calls “an intentional choice to prioritize your vocation.”
Honnold says, “I want to climb in the best places in the world, and that’s my focus. So I’m willing to give up having stability, having a shower, having whatever in order to climb the way that I want.” He goes on to say, “I am probably more intentional with the way I live my life than virtually anybody. I have made clear choices about what I find value in, what risks I am willing to take. I am doing exactly what I love to do. It’s very easy for someone sitting on the couch at home to condemn it as crazy and stupid. But I can justify all my choices — can you say the same about your life?”
The Apostle Paul had much to say about that same kind of commitment for the life of the true follower of Christ in the real world today. He said, “I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” — Philippians 3:13-14
We are in the middle of the holiday season approaching Easter, the season known as Lent. And as we progress toward that very special and significant week, weekend, and day, those two verses ring true for these days.
I must admit that Paul’s statement about “forgetting the past” is one of the hardest for me. It is so very difficult to not live in the past.
The other day I was thinking about Lent being the time of the year when we tend to want to “clean up our act” and the first thing that popped into my mind was a picture from the time when I was about six or seven years old. Talk about the past!
But I remember one Sunday morning – it happened several times – when we were going to church, my Dad driving and my Mom riding beside him in the front seat of our 1955 Buick Special.
My Mom turned around and “inspected” each of us kids, my two sisters and me, head to toe. When she came to me, she said one thing: “Come here!”, and by that, she meant she wanted me to get within reach of her.
While I was maneuvering as slowly as I could, she was fishing in her pocketbook for something. Then with a grand look of satisfaction and victory, she pulled out of her purse a used Kleenex tissue, spat upon it, and then began to “spit shine” my “dirty” face.
I must admit that I did not feel very clean after that “bath”, but it made her happier.
In many ways, Lent is a time for each of us to clean up our act.
Now, don’t misunderstand. I am not saying that we can ever clean up enough to be acceptable to God on our own. But Lent has traditionally been a time for “giving up” things, a time to make sure that our lives are holy and acceptable before the Lord (Romans 12:1-2).
It is a time for each of us to prioritize drawing closer to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with an attitude of self-denial and self-sacrifice. Those verses in Romans ask each of us to “present our bodies as living sacrifices to the Lord.”
But, as one cartoonist put it when depicting the impact of those verses, “The only problem with living sacrifices is…. They keep crawling off the altar!”
Alex Honnold’s commitment, especially his searching question mentioned above, should challenge every follower of Jesus. Are we serving the greatest quest and the greatest Lord in the universe with the same amount of tenacity and devotion?
The mission is great.
The only question is, “Are you up to it?”
God bless …
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at email@example.com.