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Climbing the Walls

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Three blasts on the whistle. “All right, that’s a new world record! Everyone can come down.” With that, everyone broke into spontaneous cheers, shouts, and laughter, followed by a series of high fives after we had reached the floor. We had done it! We had set a new world record for wall climbing for the Guinness Book of World Records!

Our search for the title had begun only a week before when I was sitting in my dorm room. Jim, the resident assistant for my hall on the third floor, had noticed that I was having a hard time making the transition from high school to college. Having heard from my older sister that I loved to try zany things, he walked in this particular night and dropped an open copy of Time magazine onto my lap.
“So, whaddaya think?” Jim asked. “Do you think we can beat that?”

I looked at the photograph of 69 Princeton students who had just set a new world record for wall climbing. The caption under it read, “School life drives these students to climb the walls for a new world record.” The picture showed some of the guys back to back, with their feet on the walls. Some, who were tall enough, were stretched out with hands on one wall and feet on the other. The one thing they all had in common was that all of them were off the floor.

My mind went into overdrive. Not only did I think we could beat it, but I believed we could smash it so soundly that mighty Princeton would be reeling at the thought of a small, southern private college slam-dunking their record. We immediately laid plans. We would try to line it up for the next Monday night. We would attempt it at 10:30 p.m., since that was dorm curfew and we would have the best chance of getting the most guys. I would be in charge of gathering people. Jim would secure the dean’s permission. Steve, my roommate, would contact the press to make sure we had it in the newspaper and to have adequate pictures proving we had done it. We would take signatures of every participant and have them sign in front of a notary public to certify that we weren’t lying. Then Jim would send off the entire packet of signatures, newspaper clippings, and photos to Guinness. I could sense fame already. Imagine, our picture––and record—in there right along with the guy who swallowed 110 live goldfish!

I totally forgot about homesickness as the next week became a blur of activity all aimed at a new world record. I banged on all of the doors in the dorm, and introduced both myself and “The Plan.” Most eagerly took hold of the idea and promised to be a part of the attempt. Especially after I mentioned the goldfish man. People began talking to me in the halls about the big event. The dean even stopped me and asked how the plans were coming.

Monday night finally came, and by 10:15 the third floor main hallway was filling with guys from all over the dorm. I lost track at about 200. At 10:20, a photographer and a reporter from the city newspaper arrived. At 10:25, the notary public came in, followed by all three deans, who were wearing referee shirts andwhistles. (We had asked the deans to referee, blowing the signal whistle and making sure that all the guys were up off of the floor at the same time.) There was definitely an air of excitement and suspense. We were going to “blast” Princeton’s record!

At 10:30, the head dean blew his whistle and announced through a battery-operated megaphone that we were going to spend some time practicing, making sure we were comfortable with the position we chose, so we could hold it for three minutes. This would give the photographer a chance to get some shots from a number of different angles. We practiced.

For my part, I had chosen John to go back to back with me. John was another freshmen on my hall. We pushed back against each other, locked our arms, and then placed our feet against opposite walls. We walked up about halfway. Once we were sure that we could hold it, we walked back down. Just then, the dean blew his whistle, signaling for silence.

We needed to count, he said, to make sure that we were breaking the record before we made any attempts. We laughed. The other two deans began counting while he continued. Also, we were allowed three chances, in case someone slipped and fell. One blast of the whistle would signal the beginning of the climb. Two blasts would indicate that everyone was up. Three would signal the end of the three minutes. The count turned up 347 guys.
He asked, “Is everybody ready?”

“Yes!” we all screamed back. The excitement had reached a fevered pitch.
The whistle sounded. We climbed. The photographer snapped. The reporter scribbled. Our backs began to ache. Guys groaned as time seemed to stand still. Everyone held until finally . . . three blasts on the whistle. “All right, that’s a new world record! Everyone can come down.” With that, everyone broke into spontaneous cheers, shouts, and laughter, followed by a series of high fives after we had reached the floor. We had done it! We had set a new world record for wall climbing for the Guinness Book of World Records! We all lined up to sign the notary’s registry.

The next day, we found our picture in the local city newspaper. Not the front page like we had hoped, but back about three pages in the Local section. There was a short story about us smashing the record. The reporter and his editor obviously didn’t see it as very important, but I was proud to be a part of such a momentous occasion.

Jim got a letter back from Guinness about six weeks later. We opened it expectantly, only to find that our attempt was not “official” because we had not had a Guinness representative present. Besides, the letter went on to say, Princeton’s record had been officially broken the previous week by another school up north with a record-setting 612 people. One last note, Guinness was seeking to do away with some categories, as it became too time-consuming to follow up on all of the attempts. This would probably be one of the categories.
So that was it, huh? Shut out because we weren’t “official.” All of the effort wasted. All of the knocking on doors null and void. Oh, to be sure, I made some new friends and had some great memories. But I wasn’t in the book. I hadn’t asked for an official representative. I didn’t know we needed one.
How is it with you? There’s another book. In heaven. But there’s only one way to officially get into it. You’ve got to have an Official Representative. All of your effort is wasted, null and void, if you don’t. In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (NIV).*

You won’t find me in Guinness, but I’ve got my name in the book that counts. Who needs to climb the walls for Guinness and their goldfish anyway?

* Scripture quotations marked NIV are from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Don Keele, Jr., is a pastor and the associate youth director for young adults for the Georgia-Cumberland Conference. He writes from Calhoun, Georgia.


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