Jesus is the Ultimate in Free Soloing

July 12, 2017 | by: Dave Maniquis | 0 Comments

Posted in: Theology

I used to be a kind of adrenaline junkie... To the untrained eye you wouldn’t think that I was into pushing the limits of physical and psychological prowess. But you would be wrong. And you might even ask for some examples. Strap yourself in. I have one for you.

As a little boy I climbed what my young eyes saw as an enormously tall tree in our family’s yard.  Who knew that giant sequoias grew in New Jersey? I stretched my tender tendons to grasp that next branch with the risk of plummeting at any moment. One tedious and measured clutch; one branch at a time. It was madness. That is until, out of sheer terror, my parents showed up and pleaded with me to stop my ascent.  The tree trunk was bending and the roots were popping out of the ground. Never mind that I could have had my self-image injured for life from the two-foot plunge before reaching the top of that three-foot tall wooden colossus.

Alright... you get the picture. I’m not the extreme sports kind of guy whose every move you gasp at.  It’s with this sports pedigree background that I read about free soloing, commonly called free solo climbing. It isn’t considered an “extreme sport” by purists who still insist on certain “conventions” or procedures. In fact, very few people do it. What free soloing involves is climbing up the face of a mountain with just your hands, feet, single-mindedness and a suppressed death wish whose silent screams entertain solid rock and put an unseen smile on it. I believe it’s called adrenaline rush. And it’s simple and inexpensive—no safety gear or other attachments like ropes, slings, carabiners, tricams, anchors, belays, etc. Nada! And forget about buying those costly life insurance premiums.  Accident adjustors will easily wiggle out of paying off since they’ll argue that body-flight coverage wasn’t in the policy. 

There are no rules. You just get to the top with whatever physical agility and mental commitment you have. Although it’s not that popular it’s probably the most dangerous extreme sport in existence.   With free soloing there’s no room for miscalculations. Therefore it’s the quintessential self-focused extreme sport. You can only focus on your grip and where the next position demands the placement of fingers and feet. There’s no such thing as “oops, let me try that again.”  This is where a person is skirting the edge of the proverbial abyss. The good news is that there are no injuries sustained for a misstep or misplaced finger.  You fall. You die.  

Despite the danger of this sport, it’s been reported that many solo climbers experience a total self-awareness and complete clarity of mind that drive them to do it. There’s a sense of absolute freedom in this rush of endorphins that would make Spiderman salivate with envy. Oh, by the way, this isn’t a spectator sport.  No competitions. No Olympic trials.  Solo climbers are a breed apart and merely want to be left alone to compete with themselves and smirk back at that amused mountain wall or overhang during their nirvana-like ascent. 

You could say that solo climbing is a way of achieving self-satisfaction, catalyzed by the inner craving to know that you are worthwhile--have value. It screams out in extreme expression as it’s heard by mountain walls that neither knows nor cares that the climber is there. Solo climbing is monastic with its solitary movements while it’s being done.  However, afterwards, even if unsought, there are accolades even among this rather untethered fraternity, albeit bound together by not having fallen

My first reaction to seeing a photograph of a solo climber hanging by his fingers over a precipice hundreds of feet from the ground is, “that’s insane!”  Then I pause and gather my thoughts and ask myself if I’m all that different?  Am I that much different from that guy to the untrained eye?  From anyone else?  Have I been hanging by my fingers on a rock to feed my desire to ascend towards self-satisfaction or recognition, whether invited or uninvited, in all manner of unending efforts?  And this, through all kinds of disciplines and personal pursuits and enflamed desires, past and present?  Isn’t this craving to know we are worthwhile, mean something, what we all seek to satisfy in our own “extreme” efforts? 

The Gospel reveals that Jesus is unarguably an extreme Person. When Jesus cries out “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me,” (Matt. 27:46, NIV) He shows Himself to be the ultimate solo climber with total self-awareness.  Through His earthly ministry, He reached the peak of His divine and eternal endeavor. The Apostle John reports of Jesus proclaiming to the Father, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4, NIV). It was attained on and through a Roman Cross where His hands and feet were positioned by His executioners.  But it was from there that He first descended and then launched His ascent to the Father with no miscalculations.  It wasn’t to reach some inner dimension or transcendent high. Not for self-satisfaction, not for self-recognition but, rather, for self-sacrifice. He climbed the Cross with divinely focused intent for those craving that inner fulfillment that only God can satisfy. (Acts 2:23-24, NIV)

However, unlike the limited number of solo climbers of our day, the Gospel is a “spectator sport.”  Jesus’ consummated ascent is to attract spectators to see what extreme measures He took.  It’s so that you and I can reach the zenith of who we were meant to be--in eternal, uninterrupted communion with the God who made the mountains. And God provides the only equipment needed; the faith to believe that God saves sinners so that we can climb and experience the rush of love and blessings He offers while glorifying Jesus during our daily ascent. (Ephesians 2:8-10)  

Jesus made no slipups. Every step of His ministry was divinely ordained to be placed where it landed. By dint of the earthly perils His foreordained ascent, He was totally self-aware and had eternal clarity of mind of what He was doing for those who would be His--who are His.

Solo climbing ends for those seeking to attain self-worth apart from Christ Jesus. Every touch of Jesus’ fingers on the crags of our hearts was done out of His love for us for whom He has secured a place with Him forever. Now…that’s what I call a mountaintop experience!  

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.  (1 Peter 2:24, NIV)

Australia_Arapiles_StefanGlowacz_PhUliWiesmeier_Getty2-56a16b045f9b58b7d0bf2e55Freeclimber Stefan Glowacz hanging from rock, Mount Arapiles, Australia

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Dave Maniquis is a Gospel Partner at Restoration Church. He holds a BA in History from Rutgers University and an MA in Biblical Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary. He enjoyed a 23-year career in the U.S. government, working and traveling extensively in Western and Eastern Europe. He has been a Christian for most of his adult life and has been involved in church planting, overseas as well as here in Port Orange, teaching the Bible and speaking into others’ lives with the Gospel. He is married to Maureen and they have two wonderful sons, Dylan and Evan

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