A few summers ago while vacationing in the High Country of North Carolina, my family found ourselves at a gym devoted to rock climbing, with high-pitched walls and many multi-colored hand and foot holds molded and screwed to the walls in a variety of patterns. Climbers would come in and try their most challenging routes, practicing in the gym so that they could apply their skill and strength on the boulders and mountains that surround Boone and beyond. While full of people, the gym was actually a very quiet place, mostly just the noise of a large fan, punctuated from time to time with a grunt or a shout from a climber attempting a vexing move.
A hand-painted sign listed out some of the rules of the gym, including this one: “No shouting or screaming except on your crux move.” Not being a climber, I had no idea what that meant, except that that move must be a tough one!
After a little research, it turns out “the crux” is a technical climbing term, referring simply to the most difficult part of a climb. The rating system for climbing routes actually isn’t determined by its length or average difficulty, but rather by the difficulty of the crux move. It is the place on the climb that requires the utmost strength and skill.
A couple of days later we were at a much higher outdoor climbing wall, trying our own hand at it, and I asked the instructor, “So, tell me about the crux move?”
“Well,” he said, “the crux move is the hardest part of the climb that demands all your strength, physically and mentally.” Immediately my mind went to the challenges of life, the crux moves of life, and some of my hardest challenges in the past and even perhaps coming up in the future.
One writer puts it, “Crux moves are the most challenging moments of the entire route; they often require you to push physically, emotionally, and intellectually, to take big and often blind risks in a way no other part of the climb does. There may be multiple crux moves along a single route.” (Uncertainty, Jonathan Fields)
Then the etymology began to dawn on me. Crux…crucis…crucifixion…cross.
Indeed, the Latin word crux literally means “a tree, frame, or other wooden instruments of execution, on which criminals were impaled or hanged.”
“You know,” I said softly, more to myself than the instructor, “crux is the Latin word from which we get the word ‘cross.’ Jesus had a crux move.”
“Really?” he replied. “I’ll have to think about that.”
“Yeah, me too.”
Already, I was thinking. Of course the Cross was Jesus’ crux move, the most difficult portion of his route on earth. And he had prepared for it and practiced for it in the daily crosses he bore, like the climbers in a gym. Then in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26.36-46) he fully committed himself to accomplishing his crux move, even though it would demand everything from him– physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually– everything, and ultimately his life. Jesus’, “Let this crux move pass from me” (v39), turned into, “Your will be done’ (v42), which turned into, “Rise, let us go.” (46)
We are not Jesus, but we all have our crux moves– moments and decisions in our lives that demand our highest commitment and discipline and demand all of our strength of mind, body, and spirit. Sometimes a whole season in life can feel like one long crux move. In those times we keep giving it all we’ve got. Sometimes we can see a crux move coming around the corner.
So, what are you facing that feels like a crux move? What am I?
- Maybe it’s a decision to make, maybe it’s a risk to take.
- Maybe it’s finally tackling that demon.
- Maybe it’s a discipline to pick up or a habit to put down.
- Maybe it’s a conversation to have, maybe it’s something to speak up about.
- Maybe it’s a dark and fear-filled closet in your life that it’s time to open up.
- Maybe it’s simply to show up fully for another day in a season that feels like “the crux.”
If you’re not facing a crux move, then the climbers in the gym are instructive. How are you training so that you can make your crux move when you face it? How are you daily “taking up your crux” (Luke 9.23), building up strength for when the real crux comes?
And if you are facing a crux move now, then Jesus in Gethsemane is instructive. Pray– tell God what you’re actually feeling, commit to doing his will whatever that is, listen for God’s voice, then rise up and do it. It’s OK to shout and scream when you do, in fact it’s to be expected, and– as the sign in the gym gave permission– allowed.
It turns out, of course, that Jesus’ crux move was his path to new life. It will be for us too, however many crux moves we encounter on our route up the mountain.
For a look at how one climber prepared for his crux move and then took it on and what happened, watch this. It’s amazing! The last scene will leave you breathless.
Here’s how one woman describes the crux move in her life, moving beyond self-pity.
Another reflects on her crux move from self-reliance to self-surrender.
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