Question: “Is there an analogy for that?”
Answer: YES. (Always.)
Greetings from Schladming!
I’m writing from a picnic table outside of Tauernhof Bible School, in a valley among the Austrian Alps. Though this is a ski town, I know it better at times like these. Schladming in summer is sweetly dusty hayfields, cheery international greetings from fellow hikers, and one-euro ice cream at least once a day. In 2002, I came here as a student for the summer before I went to Seattle Pacific University. Two years ago I worked on one of the many dairy-farm-and-guesthouse operations in the next village. Now I’ve come back for a third summer, this time as an instructor for Tauernhof’s Upward Bound program.
Upward Bound is a unique Bible school in that most of the lectures are woven into a variety of outdoor activities and backpacking trips around the area. Along with the direct teaching, nearly every activity–from rock climbing to small group activities to hiking to chores–comes with a debrief. During Instructor Week, when we are trained in all of the elements of the coming weeks, we’ve been participating in both activities and debriefs.
Without revealing events still secret for participants (who may be reading this… Holly Dahlstrom), I can say the most common question, at the end of each day, is “What analogies to life in Christ can you see in this activity?”
It’s not a new question for me. Having been raised at Alaythia Fellowship, where we asked similar questions every time someone learned to belay a friend on the climbing wall or crossed the narrow wires on the high ropes course. No outdoor recreation activity stands alone, without parallel to life. Part of it must be having listened to thousands of sermons using this outdoor imagery to describe following God, but whatever the cause it is how I think now. When I think of ropes I know that they mean trust, that dependency is sometimes required for success and that we must keep moving in order to get anywhere, both on the trail and on the wire and in following Christ.
These analogies have followed me through life, taking me through some of the harder times with the hopes of summits, or the fog clearing, or a moment’s rest. And here in Schladming, I’m waiting at a pass. Behind me the loveliness of home; across the edge a misty forest, where I can only guess at the path. For now, however, I’m content to wait at the top, teaching lessons in analogies and saving the coming-down for later.