I stood at the base of Commodus, a popular, 5.10a sport climbing route at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch near Jasper, AR. It was a sunny September day, and the weather was perfect. Climbers from all over the country had gathered at Horseshoe for a full day of climbing. Since Commodus is a classic route, several people wanted to get on it, including Justin and me. So when it was finally our turn, I was ready to go.
Justin had already led the route, which means he had attached our rope to the fixed bolts along the wall with carabiners. After he had reached the top of Commodus and secured the rope in the anchors, Justin descended to belay me. My job was to follow him and remove the carabiners, a process known as “cleaning.”
I tied in, chalked up, and started up the rock. The climb to the first bolt was easy and fun. The handholds and footholds were solid. All I had to do was unclip the first carabiner and continue on up to the next bolt.
But I had trouble unclipping. With my right arm extended and left hand holding on, I could barely reach the bolt. Because I was stretched out, the tension on the rope was tight.
I gave the rope a big jerk to force it out of the carabiner. When I did, I came off the rock. I knew I was going to take a fall, but I expected Justin’s belay device to activate before I hit the ground. It didn’t.
Directly underneath me was a tall, pointy rock. When the sharp edge made contact with my tailbone, I cried out like a wounded animal. The pain was immediate and intense. A warm sensation swept over my whole body. I felt nauseated and thought I would throw up.
Slowly, I stood up. The last thing I wanted to do was keep climbing. But, after a few minutes, I forced myself to get back on the wall. I didn’t want fear to keep me grounded, that day or in the future. I had to conquer Commodus. And I did. Bruised backside and all.
I struggled with constant pain for the next two weeks. It hurt to walk. To sit. And even to lie down. I only felt relief when standing for short amounts of time.
Most people around me had no idea how much I was suffering. Only an extremely observant person would have noticed my gait was a little awkward, like I’d been riding a horse too long. Only someone watching my body language would have picked up on how slowly I moved. And only those paying close attention would have seen my slight grimace as I shifted my body weight from one cheek to the other when I’d been sitting too long.
One day when I was especially uncomfortable, I sensed the Lord speaking to my heart about my experience, challenging me to consider it from a spiritual perspective.
Every day I come into contact with hurting people. People who are in great distress, not from a rock climbing accident, but from circumstances in their lives, past and present. Abuse, rejection, neglect, addiction, and betrayal have caused massive internal injuries. Only I don’t see their pain. I’m not paying attention. I’m too preoccupied with myself to notice.
But I’m not the only one in this predicament. Every human being on this planet struggles with self-centeredness. It’s part of our sinful nature. We’re all guilty of getting caught up in the details of our own lives. But we can do better. We can change! Through the power of the Holy Spirit, you and I can become more focused on others instead of ourselves.
If that’s your desire – to be more aware of people’s hurts and ways you can help – pray this prayer with me today:
“God, I confess that I think too much and too often about myself. Your Word says, ‘Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (Phil. 2:4 NLT).’ Open my physical and spiritual eyes to the people around me. Give me your heart – a heart of compassion and comfort – and show me how to alleviate their suffering. Thank you for teaching me how to grow in this area of my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Once you’ve asked God to increase your sensitivity to others, you can be confident He will answer such a request. In fact, be on the alert. The Lord just might send someone your way today.
[Note: A climber who rated Commodus online as a 5-star climb commented, “Pleasant balancey climbing with some reachy moves. Loved it. A fall might be painful.” Might be? I know from experience that a fall is definitely painful on this route!]