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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “Don’t Try to Walk before You Can Crawl” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/17/08)

TITLE: Without Belay
By Holly Westefeld


"Wassup Jay?" Chris set his tray down across from his lab partner.

"Not much. I'm actually caught up on everything, so I'm ready for some r and r after dinner." Jay glanced at Chris's sparse selections. "You on a diet?"

"Nah. Going climbing after dinner, and you don't do that on a full stomach. Wanna come?"

"I've never climbed before--..."

"Doesn't matter. Neither had I, until a month ago."

"Don't you need special equipment?"

"You just borrow it from the equipment desk in the athletic center."

"I'm not, ... um, ... crazy about heights," Jay sputtered.

"It's perfectly safe. You're in a harness, and there's a rope keeping you from falling, held by someone trained to keep just the right tension on it."

Jay still looked hesitant.

"At least come watch," Chris urged.

A slow grin spread over Jay's face. "One condition."

"What's that?"

"No sermons!"

"Ok, ok. If I mention Jesus, I'll spring for dessert and soda at the student center. Deal?"


They laughed, and dug into the remainder of their dinners.

* * *

The forty foot high structure loomed directly ahead as they entered.

"What size shoe do you wear?" Chris asked as they approached the equipment desk.


They scanned their student ID's, collected their gear, and headed for a bench to change shoes.

Jay stuffed one foot after the other into the shoes. "Man, these are tight!"

"They're supposed to be. The last thing you want is your foot to shifting on a precarious hold."

Jay observed closely, and emulated, as Chris buckled on his harness. "Let me get a belay, and demonstrate the easiest route."

"A what?"

"Your belay is the person certified to handle your rope. Your anchor."

"Hey, Andrew," Chris called. "Can I get a belay? I have a newbie to show the ropes to."

Andrew groaned, and switched places with his own belay. "Yeah, sure."

Chris carefully tied the rope to the top of the harness. "On belay?"

Andrew inspected the knot, and checked the buckles on belt and leg loops. "Belay is on."

Chris pulled a block of chalk from a bag dangling from the harness, rubbed both hands over it, and slipped it back in the bag as he approached the bottom of the wall. "Climbing?"

"Climb on!"

Jay watched intently as Chris lithely scaled the wall, using a series of blue holds. At the top, he pushed a button, which sounded a horn, and Andrew began to slowly feed the rope out for his descent.

"You sure made that look easy!"

"I've done that route dozens of times, but it sure wasn't easy the first time." He untied the rope and showed Jay how to knot it correctly. "Thanks, Andrew. I'll take over and belay for Jay."

"So now I'm supposed to say--was

"On belay."

"On belay?"

Chris examined the knot and buckles. "Belay is on."

Jay chalked his hands, as he had seen Chris do. At the foot of the wall, dinner weighing heavy in his stomach, he stretched for the first blue grip. "Climbing?"

"Climb on! Keep focused on the next hold," Chris advised, "not looking too far ahead, and especially not back down."

Slowly, Jay ascended, from blue hold to blue hold, grateful for the traction and snug security of the shoes. By the time he was halfway, his palms were sweaty, despite the chalk, and there was no way he was going to hang on with only one hand long enough to refresh it. Another ten feet--... His left foot slipped off the thinnest hold he'd encountered, causing his left hand to lose its grip. Just as panic almost bubbled out as a scream, he felt the support and security of the rope. Drawing a deep breath, he reached for the next hold, and the next, and ... finally ... the button!

Thankful for slightly wider holds, Jay slipped each hand, in turn, into the chalk bag before descending. Once again on solid ground, he flexed muscles he hadn't known he possessed. "I did it!"

"Good goin', man," Chris congratulated.

Jay pointed to another climber. "Why's his rope only going down?"

"That's a more advanced skill called lead climbing. You attach clips to anchors on the wall as you climb, and the rope to the clips."

"I'll get the basics down first, I think."

"Oh, yeah. No matter how advanced you get, though, you always need a belay. ... Ya know, goin' through life without Jesus is like climbing without a belay."


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This article has been read 763 times
Member Comments
Member Date
K. J. Cash01/24/08
A perfect title! Enjoyed the story and the education.
Jan Ackerson 01/25/08
Fascinating! I really appreciated Chris's sensitivity to his friend (even though I knew he'd be springing for dessert!)
Karen Wilber01/26/08
I like how you provided small details about climbing throughout the story without breaking the flow of the conversation. Nice example on topic and love the title. Enjoyable read.
c clemons01/28/08
Very good.
Jean Thornberry01/29/08
Excellent work! You told the story in such a way that it felt like I was right there next in line to climb! I also learned a lot about rock climbing through this work. Way to weave education into your storytelling. That is not easily done. Way to go!

This is an excellent illustration of how Jesus is our anchor! No matter how experienced we think we might be, we ALWAYS need Him. Without Him, we sink. With Him, we rise! Keep up the great work. May the Lord continue to bless others through your writing.
LauraLee Shaw01/30/08
One of my favorite things about this entry is that you managed to hit the message of the proverb while STILL putting a deeper meaning of the faith in there.

This about sums it up: "Climb on! Keep focused on the next hold," Chris advised, "not looking too far ahead, and especially not back down."

Oh, that we could learn this as we live in step with the Spirit each day. Well done.

Loren T. Lowery01/30/08
As someone who has done some repelling and knows first hand what a belay is, this is first rate writing. A great tie in analogy to the challenge this week and an awesome message to boot.
Sara Harricharan 01/30/08
I have to chuckle at those two friends. Thier frienship is close enough to trust with a Belay line and the ending with desert, well, that cinched the characters for me. I liked the dialouge between them and the very vivid descriptions of climbing. ^_^
Dee Yoder 01/30/08
Not knowing a thing about climbing, I thought the title was a typo at first, but you cleared that up beautifully within the story. Great characters and an easy, friendly rapport between the friends made this an enjoyable read.
Tim Pickl01/31/08
I like this one! It reads like a skit....or a play
Karen Deikun02/09/08
What a neat article - very well written with a good strong beginning and a neat little ending. Your knowledge of climbing was very good and I liked how you used something familiar to make your point. Nice work.