By Kristen Entwistle
When I was in college, I had to take a class that involved a 12-day wilderness expedition in the Adirondack mountains. My group spent the majority of our trip kayaking through the waters in the mountain range, but before we set off, we did a few “team-building” activities – two ropes courses – high and low, and a rock wall.
The morning that we got to the rock wall, it was overcast, threatening rain. I was the last person in our group to attempt the rock wall, and by the time I got strapped in, it was pouring. The rock face was slippery, hard to hold on to. As I began to climb up, I would find a few footholds, make it a few feet, and then slip back down a foot.
Two steps forward, one step back.
When I finally made it about halfway up the rock face, rain pelting my face, thoroughly soaked, I came to a ledge that I had to find a way around. I tried a few different ways around, under, and over the ledge, but without success. I looked down at my belayer, and asked, “Can I just repel down? I can’t get around this!” My leader looked up at me and smiled before she replied, “You can do it. I’m not letting you quit.”
Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place.
I was stuck. Couldn’t go down, I could only press forward. And that ledge? It wasn’t budging.
I had to find a way around the ledge, but I couldn’t see a way around by myself.
The rest of my team, soaking wet on the ground below or above me, began to show me things that I couldn’t see myself. “Try putting your foot on that hold about two feet to your left!” they called. “Okay, now put your hand there – yeah, there – and move so that you’re hanging under the ledge. Now you can maneuver around that rock – yeah, there you go – and put your right foot two feet to the right…” They continued to help me get around the ledge, seeing things that I couldn’t, until I finally hoisted my soaking wet self over the top of that rock wall.
It’s a beautiful image of what God does with us. Sees things that we can’t, giving us ways out when we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place – whether literally or figuratively.
Because if we admit it to ourselves, we find ourselves between rocks and hard places a lot.
And more often than not, like I did on that rock wall, we try to find ways out on our own, when all along we should be placing our faith in and relying on the One who has seen us through every trial, every storm, every rough patch. The One who bore our sins on the cross, died for us, and rose again, preparing a place for us in heaven.
The Israelites were no strangers to rocks and hard places. And both of the stories that we come to next in Hebrews 11 reveal their doubts and complaints against the God who led them out of Egypt, and the sovereignty and power of God, who provides a way out of those rocks and hard places.