Zion’s “Narrows” – Stepping Confidently

“Become familiar with the warning signs for flooding.  People have drowned inside the narrows from unexpected storms.”

Gulp.

One of Zion’s rangers sent us a shock as she described the danger of through-hiking the Narrows.

“But don’t worry,” she said. “Step with confidence and you’ll be fine. The biggest trouble people have is tripping on rocks while in the river. Even when you can’t see the bottom, you need to step hard. You got this.”

Comforting…

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Approaching the mouth of “The Narrows,” one will witness the red sandstone cliffs standing resolute over the river’s neighboring greenery.

The next day, my bride and I went on the greatest adventure of our honeymoon. About sixty percent of our sixteen-mile hike was spent in the Virgin River. The surrounding sandstone walls seemed ablaze as they towered over our trail, made of flowing water.

And all the while, we learned the meaning of the ranger’s advice to step with confidence. When waist deep, we often could not see the rocks below our feet.

Stepping timidly, pawing for security in our landing, often ended poorly. This shy approach proved frictionless upon contact with the rocky river bed.

But when we lifted our feet high through the water, believing our soles would land firm into what we could not see, we moved quickly. Stepping with confidence became the victorious approach.

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In places inside “The Narrows,” light barely grazes the surface of the water.

In life, we too cannot always see where our feet will land next or what adventure lies ahead. When faced with such uncertainty, sometimes the best approach for our feet is to plunge them forward, stepping faithfully into the secure landing prepared for them. And like Laura and I experienced on our hike, choosing to step confidently is completely worth the journey.

For those of us who believe in God, this idea is part of the promise we receive.  When faced with the unknown, whether into blessings or hardship, we must step confidently and faithfully.  We can do this because we believe that our good God has prepared each step of our way, sustaining and encouraging us along the adventure.

With eyes wide open,

Andrew Bellisle

Founder of The Network 5.12

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

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The Virgin River flows steadily through the maze of red sandstone cliffs, standing 2,000 feet above the canyon floor.

Prayer from Nature: A Faith that Moves Halfdome

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Photograph: “North Dome, Half Dome, Clouds” by Matt Bye

I am now reminded of a strange sensation. It is peculiar, when sitting in a parked car, for the adjacent vehicle to reverse. Often, the resulting optical illusion is that your own car is rolling forward, followed by a desperate, brief desire to nail the brakes.

The wilderness created this deception today. A flat portrait of clouds, steadily and gracefully shifting north served as the adjacent automobile, and Halfdome felt as my own. The way the sky slithered to my left gave me, even if for an instant, the wonderful feeling that this granite wonder was moving southwards rather than its grey and blue backdrop inching wayward. So my brief, devout belief that such an absurdity was possible moved for just the moment, a monolith. It is true what they say. Faith can move mountains. All we need is a moment of belief and anything is possible.

I pray for overwhelming moments of this faith, powerful enough to move mountains. Let them carry over into a freedom of confidence to go and powerfully impact the world around me.

Founder of The Network 5.12

Andrew Bellisle

This is the last of a 5 day series.  From September 22nd to September 26th, Andrew released a prayer each day.  These prayers were inspired by a focus on entities of creation.  We would love for you to subscribe to our blog to check out more posts in the future! 

Note on today’s photograph: Matt Bye is a friend of The Network 5.12.  To check out more of his work, visit http://matt-bye.smugmug.com.  To learn even more of Matt’s philosophy on capturing photos, read “Sorry Photographers, You’re not Original,” a post he wrote specifically for The Network 5.12.

Is Faith Just a Box?

Can I be honest?  I hate being told what I cannot do.  Period.  There, I said it.  Being told I can’t do something is never fun.  The words “You can’t do it” tend to precede a flailing and often failing attempt to do it anyway. This may sound juvenile, but it’s not just me!  I’ve watched friends do the same.  I’ve watched limit-pushers talk to strangers, chug hot sauce, and eat live goldfish, all just to say, “There.  It’s been done.  The world is in order.  Now, give me a cookie.”  There’s a switch that goes off when we are told we can’t do something, a simple beckoning turns on to prove that we can.

I find this to be especially true of outdoor adventurists.  We want to break limits, move boundaries, and overcome obstacles.  This is perhaps one of the number one reasons I climb.  If you climb rocks too, maybe you can relate.  Think about it, we climb up a rock, we look around for a little bit, and then we come back down.  That doesn’t exactly make a whole lot of sense…until one has climbed.  The finish of a route is where lies the understanding.  Perhaps this is because at that point, you have done it.  You have proven that you can.  There’s no greater feeling than accomplishing something that did not seem possible.

My friend Lillian pushing through a difficult route for her.  Great moment to witness!

My friend Lillian Brace pushing through a difficult route for her. Great moment to witness!

But unfortunately, the need to prove we can do stuff is often paired with hesitation in other arenas of our lives.  In attempts to prove we are capable of anything, we keep ourselves from committing to anything with the appearance that it will box us in.  I find our generation to be terrified of commitment; we are scared to give ourselves to one spouse, stay with one job, or believe religiously in one thing.  We say things like:

“But what if she isn’t THE one?”

“What if the lousier job pays more?”

“What if I am wrong?”

Could passionate commitment be dying?  Spiritual commitment is certainly gaining the appearance of putting people into a coffin.  Not only with religious faith is there the question looming, “What if I am wrong?” but people also view religion as a list of rules, restrictions, and do’s and don’t’s.  The consensus I hear from most people unwilling to step into a spiritual journey is that faith puts people into a very tiny, unsophisticated, restricting box; so distrust in the spiritual often exists because most people hear from faith whispers of “you can’t” instead of “you can.”

But no.  Am I allowed to say that this has not been my experience with faith at all?!  My beliefs in a creator and in Jesus are constant reminders of what I have done, what I can do, and what I will accomplish through my continued understanding of who God is and the spiritual realm that flows through out this world.  When exploring the wild, my faith binds me with nature, giving me the full abundance of life when I hike or climb because I understand the interconnectivity of the creation of this world, from ground to plant to rock to me; a comprehension of nature’s existence elevates my experience as I work my way up the granite cliffs of Yosemite, the red rock of Colorado, or the sandstone in the Red River Gorge.  In the monotony of cashiering at a grocery store (my current job in Yosemite), I am able to still enjoy a spiritual experience in every moment, because I have a faith that I was created as a communal being to be in relationship with each person coming through my line, whether they are from the United States, Korea, Germany, or Australia.  In attempts to love and encourage others living in the tent village where I sleep, I am motivated to selflessly give and serve more and more because of my developing understanding of who I believe Christ to be and what He has called us to do.  So no, my faith does not hinder me by throwing me into a self-destructive box; as I continue to embrace and learn about it, my faith encourages me to go at life with more vigor and more adventure than I ever have before.

The start of my recent first trad lead, "Bishop's Terrace" 5.8 in Yosemite National Park.

The start of my first trad lead ever, “Bishop’s Terrace” 5.8 in Yosemite National Park.

My experiences climbing have no doubt helped to bring about this perspective on faith.  I know that as I both climb harder and higher, I am learning to believe deeper and follow more faithfully the words of Jesus, truly liberating ideas brought forth by an incredible man.  So my challenge for people who say faith is just a box is simple.  What if faith is exactly what needs to be embraced in order to live in life’s full abundance?  That is exactly what I believe faith has done for me.

Embracing faith,

Andrew Bellisle

Founder of The Network 5.12

Embracing Uncertainty – Cliff Jumping in the Tetons

A debatably perfect afternoon proved a lack of adventure to be inexcusable.  For weeks, surrounding wildfires had cast their smoke upon the Tetons, replacing their vast glory predominantly with invisibility. They had been gone.  They, meaning mountains.  But on this day, with the smoke departed and the reemergence of grandeur, I found myself amongst beautiful people circling the also remarkably beautiful Phelps Lake.

Phelps Lake, Grand Teton National Park

Phelps Lake, Grand Teton National Park

Now three quarters of the distance around the lake, from the way we had taken the loop, there was a rock…a rather big rock…a rather big rock from which you could jump into the rather chilly Phelps Lake.  Sound like fun?

Well for weeks of smoke, I had been hearing about this rock and the fun it bestowed, and now being with beautiful, adventure-seeking people, this would be the day to claim the fun.  Not even the time limit we were hauling across trail would stop us from experiencing this rock; it would only encourage an intensified adventure.  Now halfway around the lake, we found ourselves running.

And as my feet moved faster, unsurprisingly, so did my heart, but its beat did not quicken solely from the exercise.  Uncertainty, undoubtedly of our awaiting 30 foot jump, was also now taking its toll.  Then, with an almost perfectly timed entrance to fight this menacing emotion, a personal hero of mine came along.  Her name was faith.  Most people assume that we “find” or “come to” faith, almost as if we do something to earn it.  I often hear people, especially Christians, in conversations like the following:

Question: “So when did you find faith.”

Answer: “Oh, you know, I was at church one Sunday, and I came to it right after…”

Maybe we can find it, but more times than not, I feel like faith finds me…as it did on this day.  Recollections of stories and pictures, all proving successful jumps from predecessors, flooded my mind, and with them faith swooped into battle against uncertainty, won, and gifted me with peace.  By the time we got to the rock, my shirt was already off, my goofy but newly acquired cowboy hat was flung to the ground (wouldn’t want to lose that being such a cowboy and all), and my heartbeat was practically thumping slower than before we ever started running.  I was prepared.  I was relaxed.  I was ready.

Now let’s assess for a moment.  Would you honestly want me to end the story jumping right then?  It would sure make for a boring ending. Fortunately for the sake of the story and my final point, I did not.  The group wanted to set up for pictures, meaning I would now wait until someone got in place down below to snap the shot, a short wait, but one that gives this story its last turn.

Giving pause allowed for an unwelcome guest.  Uncertainty returned.

Now you might be expecting me to wrap up this post with how we all just need to have a little more faith, but I’m not going to do that.  As I portrayed earlier, faith indeed wipes out uncertainty, but is uncertainty really all that bad?  It was only unwelcomed earlier in my story because I didn’t like its initial results, temporary thoughts and feelings that lent to desiring a way out of the adventure set forth.  So my encouragement is quite the opposite of “Go ‘get’ more faith.”  As I stated earlier, faith will probably find us anyway.  What we must do is learn to embrace uncertainty.  For when we do, our faith becomes even stronger, the jump’s story gets even better, and the destination of our adventures taste even sweeter when we arrive.

To end my story at Phelps Lake: faith and uncertainty partnered up, I was forced to embrace them both, and the water was more than fine.  It was glorious.

Phelps Lake, Grand Teton National Park

Embracing Uncertainty

Andrew Bellisle

Founder of The Network 5.12

It is often that Christ calls us in uncertainty.”                                                                                 – Rob Foley (Community Life Coordinator at Denver Seminary)

Also, if you have time, read now Luke 5:1-11, the story of Jesus telling the disciples to cast out their nets to deep water.  Imagine the uncertainty they felt about what they were being told to do.  Then think of the life-long journey their faith brought them to.