The alarm went off at 5 a.m. It was a special day; my son had invited me to go rock climbing in the Wichita Mountains in southwest Oklahoma. Soon we were on the road, bright and early. The fall foliage colored the boulder-dotted terrain with bright reds and unique yellows; the air was crisp and clean. A perfect day for climbing!
It was my first venture at such a challenge; however, my son, Andy, is an experienced and talented climber. After arriving at the park and packing up our gear, he led the way as we hiked 45 minutes across the granite hills and grass-covered prairies. We traversed by wild buffalo, deer and who knows what other kinds of critters, finally arriving at a rock formation called “The Lost Dome.” The Lost Dome is huge granite that sticks out of the southwestern Oklahoma topography like a sore thumb. Before I knew it, I was “on the wall” making my first-ever climb.
Wisdom often speaks to us in unusual places, so as a tribute to Andy, who is a great young man, I’d like to share some of the valuable lessons I learned that memorable day.
1. With proper coaching and encouragement you can accomplish great feats. I was a little intimidated as I looked up at the 100-foot granite wall daring me to just try to climb it. Andy coached me step by step, however, explaining the use of my equipment and helping me at each stage of the climb. Only with his assistance was climbing even remotely possible.
Lesson learned: We must have others to help us on the journey of life. We can’t get it done without them. In fact, all great people have great people in their lives. Relationships are important, aren’t they? Who are you connected with who can help you accomplish great feats?
2. Hard challenges are great morale boosters. I hate to admit it, but about 10 feet into the climb I was ready to give up. My hands hurt from the sharp granite; my toes, legs and arms were throbbing—and all in harmony. About that time some alarming thoughts begin to hound me: This is not good—a 53-year-old man hanging on the side of a cliff. But after about 30 minutes of taking it “one move at a time,” I finally made it to the top.
Lesson learned: Persistence pays great dividends. Hard challenges have the potential to propel us forward in life, and when they are accomplished, they’re great morale boosters. I remember feeling like I had accomplished something. As a matter of fact, I’m still pumped!
3. We all need comrades who will cheer us on. One thing I witnessed that day was that it seemed like all the climbers knew one another. Though they didn’t, camaraderie was in the air. On a different route that day, I got stuck about 70 feet into the climb. To my surprise, one of the fellow climbers scurried up the wall next to me and gave me a few pointers. Imagine that!
Lesson learned: God sends us comrades to cheer us on as we walk through life, those willing to climb alongside and help. This is where coaches come in. They come alongside to offer support and encouragement, and hold a person accountable.
Life is full of valuable lessons—teachable moments. Proverbs tell us that wisdom speaks from the streets at the place where the paths meet (see Prov. 8:1-3). Will I try climbing again? Sure. Will I become a pro? I doubt it. But I had a great time literally hanging with my son—all while learning some great life lessons .
A certified professional coach and trainer, John Chasteen is also the assistant dean of Southwestern Christian University Graduate School in Bethany, Okla. You can read his blog at heycoachjohn.com