It’s morning, and cold; it’s always cold in Bishop during the Dec/Jan climbing season. I am sleeping outside on my dirty climbing pad under the not yet cusped sun. The shade is frigid and I’m just trying to get up, awaiting the breakfast that is inevitably coming. My climbing partner Ted is reminding me of my job to make breakfast(he made dinners and I breakfast), and then asking me, “Where is the cheese?” I had eaten the remainder of it the night before, in a munchie stupor no doubt. I tell him no worries, J-Mac has some for sure. I poor a cup of coffee and head the 50 yards to her camper named ‘El Jefe’. She’s had this thing for a bit now, after selling her Volvo to Seneca (a fellow climber and former employee of the gym we all used to work for), it was her home away from home and everyone who knew her knew ‘El Jefe’ as well. As I lightly tap on the door she opens it with the smell of coffee brewing and a bright smile on her face…
“Good morning Julia.”
“Good morning Danimal.”
“Can I ask you for a favor?”
“It’s a bit weird, but can I have some cheese? I ate all the rest of ours and Ted is a bit angry with me. I’ll bring it back and I promise not to eat all of it.”
“Yeah, I think I have some.”
“Thanks, I’ll bring it right back, I promise.”
We most likely conversed a bit more about where we would be climbing that day, the delightfulness of coffee and when our respective trips at Bishop were ending(and if I could get a ride back home… she said maybe) and when we would depart back to “home-base”.
That was the last meaningful conversation I ever had with Julia Mackenzie. On September 7 2016 she died in a climbing accident on the Evolution Traverse in the high Sierras. Humanity lost a kind beautiful woman, and as each one who knew her would agree, she cannot be replaced.
I’d known J-Mac since 2006 when I started working at Class 5 in San Rafael, CA.
She was a remarkable climber and person, and admittedly I had a crush on her that honestly never really relinquished. But most every guy who met her did. This isn’t a diatribe on a love relationship lost, or the possibility thereof missed. Nor is it simply a tribute, obituary, or eulogy. If you’ve read anything of this blog you should figure where this is going. I desired to start with that memory–one among many–to give a small glimpse into the sweetness of her heart to care for others. Perhaps that’s why she ended up going into nursing, and why I referred to her as, “my favorite nurse”. It made her blush once or twice… oh the small victories, the small victories. No this is a reflection on my failures, not hers.
I knew Julia during my self proclaimed “prodigal days”. The decade or so when I was a functional agnostic, a believer to be sure but functioning as an agnostic. Not sure of my eternal status with God, shall we say, “maintaining the outward appearance of religion but having repudiated its power.” This is by far and away not what I ascribe to now, nor what I did before I entered into the climbing world. But, in a way, we don’t control what seasons the Lord brings us through.
J-Mac is the first person whom I’ve known with depth that has died. It’s a sobering experience for me. It was a decade where I hardly ever, with maybe one or two exceptions, witnessed any gospel light to anyone. For that I am still ashamed, and quite fearful. Fearful of the chastisement and judgement I will endure when I meet my Lord face to face on “the last day.” I know I will not face eternal condemnation, I know that I stand on Christ Jesus’ righteousness–and graciously so–but I still can’t help but concern myself with having this predicament rear it’s ugly head again.
I’d often thought to myself a couple of years ago, and in conversation with another close friend of mine, what sort of guilt and shame I will incur because of my horrible Christian witness during that time? What if during all those years, I was the only one to which all those I had met and had intimate moments with had that knowledge of the gospel of Christ to give their perishing souls? There is, in a very real and frightening way, responsibility on my part for their unbelief. Hear the words from Romans chapter 10,
“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we preach), because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation. For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, who richly blesses all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
How are they to call on one they have not believed in? And how are they to believe in one they have not heard of? And how are they to hear without someone preaching to them? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How timely is the arrival of those who proclaim the good news.” But not all have obeyed the good news, for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ. Romans 10:8–17
If we do not speak the word, no one will know. That is the words of the inspired text, not mine. The phrase, “How timely is the arrival…”, is often translated, “How beautiful are the feet…”. Either way you take it, it can mean one of two things.
- The preaching and subsequent belief or rejection is in the correct time it was intended. This follows with the semantic range of the word, which involves agrarian themes of bounty or youthful beauty.
- The feet of the ones carrying the news are beautiful, because of the substance of message delivered. This carries weight with the rejection of said news, for to reject something so beautiful as the good news of what God has done in Jesus Christ, is to abhor the most beautiful blessing that may ever be.
Either could be correct but the first option seems more certain with the following point, “But not all have obeyed…” and the subsequent discussion of the remnant according to election and so forth.
What am I saying?
Simply this… We, as Christians, are called to proclaim the mystery of Christ. We are to do it constantly. This proclamation goes out for judgement and for salvation. This sending and preaching is God’s means to “get the word out there.” You won’t find anywhere else in the New Testament where another method of spreading the gospel exists. Believers preach the message, and God, by means of this message and His Spirit’s illumination, makes it effectual and gives faith to believe and trust in it. When we don’t proclaim, we are in essence saying to God,
“Send someone else. I am not capable of giving any gospel light. I’d much prefer, rather, to sit back and smile my days away till you take me to be with you. By either death or some other method.”
If we are to, “Preach the message, be ready whether it is convenient or not, reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and instruction.” 2 Timothy 4:2, then there is little to no room for rejecting the call to proclaim.
Though I failed to do this for ‘J-Mac’–I do not know if she ever had this from another source and I hope she did–I pray, by God’s grace, that I never fail in doing so with another friend that I hold dear. May we all strive to proclaim to others, the Kingdom of God.