It’s easy to imagine life as a giant rock wall. No, really. Life is just a big wall between us and who we want to be. It is full of character with its seemingly random ledges to sit on, rest, and take in the views, and its almost non-existent handholds that we seem to keep slipping off of. There are deep cracks that we can wedge ourselves into, and overhangs that make us want to cry. It’s just a crazy wall. Like El Capitan but even harrier.
The wall is so treacherous and insane that no one can actually get over it alone. And the higher you go the farther you have to fall, so it’s way too easy to just find a nice looking perch and hangout. Don’t even try to keep going up. That will only lead to an inevitable deadly fall. Any sort of free climbing is completely out of the question. The only way is to have a series of phenomenal anchors and a really good belayer down below.
And this is exactly what Christ provides for us. His gospel gives us the anchors we need, and he, himself, is our personal and perfect belayer.
So, what exactly does a belayer do for a climber? Many things, but controlling the rope is the most vital. That rope is the only thing between us and certain death. The belayer has the unique perspective needed to take slack out of the rope as we climb so a missed foothold or tired arms don’t mean tragedy. He watches everything we do, perfectly vigilant and understanding.
Our Savior, having descended below it all as part of his magnificent atonement, has complete control over the rope through that very same atonement. Every misstep, every moment of exhaustion, even every time we purposefully let go for whatever reason, is absorbed by that rope. We cannot fall to our deaths. Only life, only that wall and our eventually triumph over it into an eternal life, exist for us.
When we get tired, we can tell the Lord and he’ll brace the rope so we can rest. When we can’t find the next handhold, he can point us in the right direction because he perfectly sees the wall before us. When we slip off the wall he catches us. When we see a hold just out of reach he can even pull more than just the slack out of the rope to give us the extra lift we need to get to the next level.
Of course, all of this is only needed because we’re climbing. We chose to take this wall on, because we believed in Christ, and believed his counsel which taught us how we could become like Father. We were strong enough, brave enough, to face the wall. And every day we breathe we are brave enough to stay on the wall. Sometimes we might need to rest, and sometimes we might fall, but we aren’t asking to be belayed to the bottom so we can sit it out.
This makes us incredible, creative, and resilient gods-in-the-making. And the atonement is the power to reach those lofty heights we know are our true destiny.
What if God didn’t provide a Savior because he knew we would be weak and frail, but because he knew we would be strong, brave, and outgoing? What if humanity’s push towards a world of love was the plan from the beginning, with moments of failure inevitable, but also with certain and glorious triumph? How would our behavior change if we knew we could reach for the kingdom of God without the fear of falling, because of our Redeemer? The atonement isn’t a bandaid, it’s a catalyst.
God has a tremendous amount of compassion, mercy, gentleness, meekness, unfeigned love, and long-suffering for us on our paths, with the painfully slow teeny tiny baby steps of progress we make. The Lord diligently holds that rope, come what may. What could my life be like if I lived like I really believed that. And what could my life be like if I tried to be that way for others? What kind of relationships could I have if the people I associate with knew my faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death?
“Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distill upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:45)