We all need to hear those words, “I am here!”

Published 7:00 am Saturday, May 11, 2019

By Fr. Jonathan Filkins

It really wasn’t a boyfriend – girlfriend thing. They had known each other since third grade, gone through their individual ups and downs, often sharing pains about other relationships. Through it all they remained very good friends.

Aston and Eliana had been involved in sports; seemingly their whole lives. Now out of school, their time was limited in what they could do. Each followed a routine of running to begin the workday, but both of them found it fell short.

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Frequently seeking outdoor adventures, the friends would find more and greater challenges to appease their drives.

“Hey Aston,” said Eliana calling on an early Saturday morning, “I found a place to do some great rock climbing and hiking. Are you up for it?” Without pausing, the quick reply was “Sure!” Smiling as she heard the news, Eliana continued, “Great! I’ll be there in twenty minutes.” It usually went this way, as the mere scintilla of an idea to do something new was greeted without hesitation.

When the car pulled into the parking lot, Aston was there with his gear. Quickly throwing it into the back seat, he asked, “So where to?” as he sat down in the front seat. Eliana replied, “I was reading about this cliff face on Grendel Mountain. It’s a bit technically difficult, but not something you and I can’t handle. We have a two-hour hike in and the views should be awesome.” Getting an approving nod from her friend, Eliana pointed the car north.

They reached the trailhead and began to hike the well-marked path. The sun was now above the tops of the trees, but the scudding clouds ominously obscured much of the light and warmth. Along the way, there was a heavy downpour and the going was slow. Turning off of the trail, they soon reached the top of the cliff. With the rain stopping and securing their lines to several boulders, they began their descent. With moods  bright, they enjoyed the exhilaration of the descent and panoramic views.

About two-thirds of the way down the slippery cliff face, there was some trouble. One of the ropes was frayed and jammed in Aston’s carabiner. In order to clear the jam, Aston stood up on a rock and took the weight off the rope. In doing so, he was untethered. Struggling, he fell down to a small ledge, four feet below; jamming his right ankle. Fortunately, he fell no further.

Aston, grimacing in startled pain, weakly called out, “Eliana, help me!” Startled by the plea, she immediately replied, “I am here!” Aston, while bruised and winded, was none the worse for the experience. Soon, a fresh rope replaced the old, and the lucky couple returned to their car, where Aston employed a Ziploc bag full of ice to his ankle.

“You know, you scared the hell out of me,” Eliana chided. Sheepishly, Aston replied, “Yes, I have made better decisions. I am so sorry.” Much of the return trip was spent in quiet reflection about what had transpired; along with several prayers of thanksgiving.

This couple’s plans, as do many plans we all make, did not go precisely as anticipated. While Eliana and Aston’s day was spoiled by events, the duration of the consequences was brief. The relationship between the two never waned and the errant climber’s physical aftereffects were soon resolved. The longest lasting impacts were the lessons learned on that day. Imagine ourselves in similar circumstances and, in today’s world, this is precisely where we frequently find ourselves. It is not often literally hanging from the edge of a cliff, but we may have similar physical, emotional, or mental distress which puts us in similar danger. Christ Jesus is always ready to hear our fervent pleas for help and to be with us, as his friends, along each step of our journeys. Each of us needs to, daily, hear the comforting words, “I am here!” All we have to do is listen, and call his name.