Free Solo: How to look in the mirror

Free Solo tells the story of Alex Honnold’s attempt to become the first person without ropes to climb El Capitan – a nine-hundred metre sheer rockface in California.

The film captures the spine-tingling scale of Honnold’s climb. Even in the cinema I felt queasy. But I also felt amazed by something I’d only previously known in my head: that the bodies God gave us are amazing.

Mind and Mastery

Just watching Honnold’s regime was tiring. To climb a mountain looming large over the already-tall trees requires unbelievable strength.

And that’s just the physical side.

The mental side of Honnold’s climb was just as important. Not only did he have to mentally endure the climb, he memorised every hand and foot hold of his route in preparation.

Honnold’s physical and mental mastery of the route was mind-blowing. And while the film was a celebration of human strength, such an achievement should point us beyond ourselves.

It should point us to the God who made us in his image (Genesis 1:27).

Muscles and mirrors

While most people won’t climb a rockface, why did God create us with 640 muscles in our bodies?

Why did he create us to memorise and master – not only every hand hold on a climbing route – but every turn on our route to work, our language, our times-tables?

He created us like this so that we’d mirror his glory. So that he’d be praised.

Honnold’s strength – and ours – is a picture of God’s power. What we master is a little reminder of God’s complete, sovereign mastery over his whole creation (Job 38:4-7).

This means we can look in the mirror very differently. We shouldn’t be impressed or discontent with ourselves.

Instead, we should see the amazing body God has gifted us with and be wowed, praising the awesome God who we resemble.