on solo-free climbing and perspective



Our daily reflection for the last week of Easter can be found here


Over the last few months I have periodically shown a video to my groups about a rock climber named Alex Honnold. The first time I watched this video, I squirmed in my chair, just like I suspect you will. This climber climbs without ropes, and does so on the most difficult routes in the world. Sometimes I will show this video to students to get the conversation started about choices, support, and relationships. Really, this video will get people talking.

Inevitably, another topic comes up with students as we discuss this video, and usually I have to point it out. The sheer magnitude of what this guy is doing tends to overshadow a quote he makes between the 9:06 and 9:45 mark as the interviewer challenged his mindset as he takes these incredible risks. What is interesting is how he confidently states that he knows what he is doing while also admitting that he might not have the ability to know how dangerous his actions are because he is “too close”.

So, this discussion tends to come down to perspective. And in any real self-examination, we all need a healthy dose to really see what is going on.

A young man (whom we will call John) was in one of my groups at an alternative school we serve weekly. He had been sent because one day he lost his cool with a student who had been picking on him and beat him up. The student he beat up also threw punches, but never ended up getting in trouble.

This mistake cost John a lot. He was a stud wrestler and a great student. He didn’t have much of a disciplinary record yet got kicked off the varsity wrestling team and put himself in a bad position with his grades. John felt slighted and was obviously upset about what had happened.

John was a good participant in groups, but I felt like he had something weighing on him as we worked through group each week. On week 6 of our curriculum we ask the students to chart out their previous six weeks on a graph with the other students to reflect on the “ups and downs” of their lives. This exercise is a powerful way to reflect on our reactions to successes and failures. Apparently this exercise had a profound impact on John.

The next week John came back with a different demeanor. At the beginning of group he shared about an “Aha!” moment he experienced in group the previous week. As he charted out his last six weeks he realized that he had never really recovered from what he perceived to be an injustice in his life. He had been sulking and feeling like a victim while the rest of his classmates had found ways to overcome their struggles. A weight had been lifted from his shoulders and he felt like he finally accepted what had happened and made the decision to move forward despite the injustice.

For John, perspective is all he needed to make peace with a difficult decision. As we reflect on the Holy Spirit this week, I think about the ways the Holy Spirit brings perspective. Honestly, I don’t have the capability to discern much in this life. My days are spent navigating complex relationships and situations, all the while trying to figure out what role I play. The Holy Spirit has been my guide in showing me how life works and where God is already working.

I’ve never been able to understand the Holy Spirit as a magician or as a power broker. Yet when I understand him as a guide and shepherd, the perspective thing makes a lot more sense. The Spirit whispers truth and meaning as we navigate the complexities of life.

Just like the climber in the video, we all need some perspective. I can think of many times when the right person or group walked beside me and helped me understand something. But in the end, I think I just really need to lean into the Spirit.

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