By Daniel Zehring
Some things change with age. Recently, I discovered that to be true for me. The Oscars this year piqued my interest in the documentary film “Free Solo.” I never used to consider myself particularly affected by heights, but as I watched the opening scenes depict rock climber Alex Honnold scale the face of a mountain with no ropes in sight, my stomach started doing flips. The film follows Honnold in his quest to complete the most ambitious “Free Solo,” or rope free, climb ever attempted on a 3,000 ft. wall called El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. In these moments, we get a window into Alex’s mind and heart as he copes with the core-rattling pressure of this life or death pursuit. His entire life hangs on his fingertips clinging to the rock. At a certain point, there is no out for him. There is only up.
Within Lent, we have the chance to reflect on the grandeur of Christ’s journey to the cross. As Jesus enters his final days, the culmination of his life’s purpose comes into focus; if not for his disciples, certainly for himself. We see him contend with the immense pressure of his great rescue mission. Coated in sweat, he pleads with the Father in the garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” What amazing love, to know the path set before him and continue. He knew the pain to come as he went to conquer death through death, opening the way to eternal life. What kind of difference does it make to know that someone loves us that deeply?
The reality is that the human condition is a broken one. I am more broken than I like to admit. I have these days where I am not sure I am up to the demands that life is throwing my way. Do you know the feeling? Like you have been run down to your limit? The life and death situation wrapped up in the story of Easter weekend was every bit as real as Alex Honnold gripping the rock wall 2,000 feet off the ground. But think about this difference; Jesus had an out for himself. It was us who had no way out. The weight of sin run rampant in a broken world pressed solidly upon his shoulders, and he could easily have abandoned his task in self-preservation, taking up his divine stature as Lord over all creation. However, he set all of it aside, and walked confidently into the storm that we remember on Good Friday, leading to the joy of Sunday morning. He did all of it because he knew how much we needed a savior. For me, in my own high-pressure moments, it is easy to forget that I have been saved and to remember how much I am loved. I try to find my own way out. Thank God that in the task set before Jesus, he took no out. There was only up to the cross.