I know I’m not supposed to play favorites but one of my favorite books of the Bible is Proverbs, the book of wisdom. Of the 31 chapters packed full of wisdom from the ages, one section always stands out to me: chapter 30 verses 7 thru 9.
“Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needed for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” (ESV)
I love this passage because it’s really a prayer about where our anchors are found. Anchors are important. Whether we recognize it, or not, anchors are needed at all times.
In December of 2015 I was in Banff, Canada for a week’s worth of ice climbing with my good friend Travis. We climbed all over the place. It was a winter wonderland of frozen waterfalls and it was early enough in the season that we had the run of the place. Initially we started with short, single-rope-length, training climbs. We had a guide take us around to both show us the area and challenge some of our poor climbing technique. As our confidence grew, we found ourselves increasing the difficulty of the ice climbs. On the final day with our guide we climbed a more difficult 1000’ waterfall. We went from one rope length to about six. It wasn’t overtly steep, but it was the longest ice climb I had ever done. I distinctly remember being about half way up the falls, dangling from a rope attached to an anchor screwed into the ice and pondering what poor choices led me to this point in my life. It was fun and terrifying all in the same breath.
After the first few days of guided climbing we were on our own to explore the area. The training wheels were off. We had driven around trying to find a waterfall and eventually came across our target later than expected that afternoon. Time was working against us as we saw the sun beating down on the ice above us. The reason waterfalls exist is due to the gathering of water toward the path of least resistance. Being that frozen waterfalls also lie in the path of least resistance, they make for very slick avalanche chutes for the literal tons of snow resting precariously above. Being underneath an avalanche path when things warm up is not the wisest of decisions. We knew this but chose to take the risk in climbing it anyway.
We worked our way up to the beginning of the falls and quickly set-up an anchor. Travis climbed up and over the first section and I followed shortly after. We threw in a couple ice screws to protect Travis as he climbed up the main body of the waterfall. I sat near the bottom of the frozen waterfall dodging ice chunks that Travis knocked down as he climbed. I held my end of the rope in hopes that if Travis slipped, I could catch him. That’s the agreement between climbing partners. Some say it’s a suicide pact. I like to think of it more as a brotherhood.
As he transitioned on the wall from shadowy ice into sunbaked ice he promptly stopped climbing. We had run into what we feared. The ice was melting and was soft on a waterfall that Travis was half way up. That’s not good when you need the ice to be hard to hold ice screws, axes, and crampons for protection. I packed snow around the ice screw anchor I was holding Travis from, silently concerned the screws would soon melt out also. The potential for tragedy was increasing by the minute and we both knew time was of the essence. If Travis’ protection melted out and he were to fall, we would both likely be ripped off that mountain. As Travis looked around for a way to bail off the climb I silently prayed a prayer that I seemed to pray often when we were climbing. “Lord, please let these anchors hold.”
I waited for Travis to figure out his next move and I continued to pray. Prayer helped take my mind off the situation as did the incredible view of the valley surrounding Banff. What an awe-inspiring and wild place. As I looked around, something caught my eye that I hadn’t noticed before and will never forget. Right next to where my ice screws were buried, attached securely to the rock that was exposed to my right, sat a rock climbing bolt. Bolts are metal anchor spots on rock climbing routes that are drilled securely into the rock. Apparently, where we were climbing in the winter was also a spot in the summer where rock climbers had climbed up with a drill and hammer to graciously place a bolt for future protection of climbers to follow.
I nonchalantly attached a leash to my climbing harness and locked the other end of the leash into the bolt. Just like that we went from sketchy anchors placed in melting ice to a solid bolt anchored deep into the rock. Had Travis fallen, it would have been far less likely to be catastrophic being anchored into the rock versus the melting ice anchors we had previously trusted our lives to. What a difference that made in our predicament.
A solid anchor in stressful situations brings peace of mind. The feeling I felt on that waterfall was the same feeling I’ve had many times in my life when the potential negative energy of a situation was building only to be relieved by the revelation of something I could trust in: truth. Knowledge that God has always been and will always be with me, even when I find myself in seemingly dire situations: hope. Anchors often come in the form of people who point me to Jesus. I’m forever grateful for those anchors in my life.
The prayer in Proverbs resonates because we need to have truth in our lives to anchor ourselves to. If it’s not there, nothing holds you when the fall happens, and falls will eventually happen.
Additionally, I hope to never find myself in a position in which I don’t think I need God anymore, or I’m forced to bring shame to Him through lies or deceit. Just as Jesus prayed, “Give us this day our daily bread…and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil,” we trust and hope in the truth that He is good, He will provide; we have no hope except in Him.
In case you were wondering, Travis and I didn’t die on that trip. I also always look for rock climbing anchors to attach to when climbing on ice. Who knows, it may save our lives someday.