Sebastian Junger wrote a very compelling book called “War.” It chronicles the combat experiences of an American platoon in Afghanistan. The trust, camaraderie, service and sacrifice these men showed one another was so powerful and extraordinary that the platoon leader extended his combat tour for a second year despite the daily horrors of his first year. When Junger asked him how he could possibly return for more war, the young soldier said that he would not find powerful brotherhood like what he experienced in Afghanistan anywhere else.
Courtney took a step and immediately went into a slide. Time went into slow motion. My left hand still had a strong purchase on the rock and my right hand gripped the trekking pole that she was hanging on to. As her full weight started to load the system, she swung underneath me. The inertia was far greater than I was expecting and I felt the sharp pinch of fear throughout my body. I felt my hand slipping off the hold I had on the rock. I couldn’t let her go. Then I lost my grip on the rock and we started to slide. It was over. I knew in a matter of seconds we would be airborne, free falling 800+ feet to our deaths…
There is a bottomless list of reasons to turn around on any climbing expedition, let alone a mountain as big as Volcan Cayambe. Set high in the Andes mountains just outside of Quito, Ecuador, Cayambe is a common mountaineering objective for our College Semester Program and other courses with a mountaineering focus. During my semester as a student in the Spring of 2016, attempting to summit Cayambe felt like a culmination of our hard work throughout the semester. There was a good chance that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for us students, and we were willing to give our full effort to this mountain. But we never got the chance.
It is easy to lock in our roles as fathers, mothers, and children. Most of us live within routines that cause us to say and do the same things over and over. We go to work or school at the same places, hang out with the same people, look at the same screens, and engage in the same activities. We get comfortable. This is not necessarily negative, but sometimes God wants to shake up our lives. Get us out of our comfort zones.
I’m scared. Who wouldn’t be? In the writing of this blog, within the month, I will be holding a fresh out-of-the-womb baby boy. He might have my hair, my chin, and my nose. He’ll hopefully have his mom’s eyes and smile. Whatever he has, he is going to be mine… and I’m scared.
Jesus was extremely clear when He said, “Do not judge.” Judgments are opinions or evaluations seen through the particular lens and worldview of the one making them. Perhaps Jesus was trying to save us the pain and trauma of being evaluated by others who do not know our entire story. Even the most well intended parents cannot know exactly what thoughts and feelings pervade the every day lives of their kids. So Jesus tells us to forego making judgments.
We often have assumptions that were so engrained into who we think we are that we never seek to challenge them. We believe that if something is uncomfortable it should be avoided, and that we are our best, truest selves when surrounded by family, friends, and cultural contexts that are familiar. Although these are irreplaceable pieces of our identity, they can often end up becoming crutches that prevent us from getting to know the parts of ourselves that we can only become acquainted with when faced with a bowl of bugs.
When thinking of traditional leaders, the charming, well spoken, “has all the answers” type typically jumps to mind. However, when instructing courses at Summit Adventure I don’t expect student leaders to have all of the answers – in fact I expect them not to. Learning how to effectively lead does not require a remarkably dynamic individual, but someone who is able to observe the needs of the group being led. A story from last year’s Adventures in Leadership course will hopefully provide some insight into just how impactful our wilderness leadership experiences can be.