Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Dawn Wall

Before you read this post it will help if you could click on the following link and take a look at the Dawn Wall that is part of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Dawn Wall.

This past week Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson became the first people to ever “free climb” that sheer granite wall you just looked at. It is the height of 10 football fields, placed end to end. “Free climbing” means that they did it with ropes only being used for safety not for ascending, and no tools being used to carve out places to grip.

They could only use their feet, hands and particularly the ends of their fingers to make progress. At night they sometimes used superglue to try and fix those bloody fingers. Occasionally they had to just stay where they were for one or two days in order for their hands to heal.

This feat had been tried a few times without success, and seemed to forever be in the impossible category. But after seven years of training and nineteen grueling days on the wall, the two made it to the top where they were welcomed by a hoard of friends, fans and the media.  It was there that Jorgeson, who does some motivational speaking, said something to a reporter for the New York Times that will likely be remembered as long as their amazing climb.

“Everyone has their own secret Dawn Wall to complete one day,” he said, “and maybe they can put this project in their own context [and be inspired] to find their own Dawn Wall…”

Whether or not we ever identify our Dawn Wall, there is something in this story for us all. These two men had a passion to accomplish a great goal, and they stayed with it even in the face of great discouragement. It took Jorgeson seven days to get through one particularly tough section. Eleven times he had made progress, only to fall and have to start that section all over again. However, he did not quit and, just as important, his partner didn’t leave him and go on. What an example!

There are all kinds of lessons that individuals, groups and churches can take away from this story. If you read more of the details of their epic climb you will likely be struck by far more than we can say in this space. But let me share one application I am making in my life.

I heard a friend recently describe some disfunction in the church. Let’s call it by a more correct name--a lack of love. He finished by saying “That’s just the way it is.” I want to send him this piece, and add this to our dialogue: “Yes, brother, sadly, that is often the way it is, but I will never stop working to help change it, and let’s together not stop making efforts to bring change. No matter how many times we fail, we have to keep going for the top.”

I read that one of these climbers was motivated to undertake this task to try to bring healing for the pain of a broken love relationship. We must be motivated for our task by a broken relationship that has already been healed by the greatest of love. That should be more than enough.


  1. Thank you so much for this Tom. You are so right we all have our own walls. Even in having to make really hard decisions. Often to quickly when it gets hard I want to back down, repel, run whatever it may be. Again thank you for this. We are broken people and need the only Healer that really matters.

  2. Powerful!!! Thanks for sharing Tom!

  3. Just the encouragement that i needed today. Thank you

  4. A comment from Toni LaGatta: I have often heard "that's just the way it is" and it saddens me every time, because in my heart I just can't accept that things can't change...I find myself stuck or having to start a section of my life over again and it can feel like too much. I've been to El Capitan and stood at the base and looked seemed amazingly impossible to climb, and yet...thanks for the encouragement to keep trying!

  5. I have been on my own Dawn climb for almost 2 years to overcome the devistation of a crushing blow and betrayal. About a year ago some asked me "At least you see the light at the end of the tunnel?" and I replied, "No, but at least I am starting to believe it is there." Thanks to amazing love, guidance and prayer, someone asked me how I was a few days ago and to my amazement I said, "I'm well." and I keep repeating it to myself. I am far from the top of the climb, and that part may take the rest of my life, but thank God I have made it to the point where I have found the light and can feel the warmth of God in it.

  6. Wow, this article really hit home as I am dealing with a career change and have run into some really daunting obstacles...discouragement can overwhelming, but I am reminded that I need to persevere and continue my studies...thank-you!