Jesus Loves

My Greatest Adventure

By Mick Deiro
Elder, Calvary Chapel of Truckee

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Mick Deiro, once a serious rock climber in Yosemite Valley, now is happy being a tour guide for his family.In high school, I was a pretty lost kid, having no direction. I didn't excel enough in anything to find out who I was, with the exception of excelling at smoking pot and drinking beer. School was kind of pointless and fairly frustrating for me. In fact, I moved to another school during my senior year of high school, which brought all of the classic implications that moving at that age usually bring. I left all of my friends from my old life behind and moved 300 miles away. My senior year was just a drag.

Because it was such a rotten year, I went ahead and applied for a job I saw advertised in the newspaper: "Summer Employment in Yosemite." So, on the day that my fellow classmates were standing in cap and gown, I was in my Volkswagen bus rolling across the Central Valley of California to Yosemite National Park to work for the summer.

I found Yosemite to be an awesome, fun place — just getting out of school was fantastic! I enjoyed being on my own so much—working, hiking around and exploring different things—that I ended up staying through the winter. I had no plan, I was just pretty much living for the moment. I had never skied before, but I bought a ski pass and skied about 120 days that year. I thought, "Man, for 12 years I've been sitting in classrooms and now I'm sitting on the slopes and having a blast."

Spring came around and my fellow employees starting showing up with rock climbing gear. I remember a group of us standing around looking at some gear someone had just bought and saying, "Wow, look at that! How does that work?"

A friend took me out rock climbing. I was scared to death. I made it about halfway up before they lowered me to the ground like a sack of potatoes. I went straight to the bar and got drunk. But something about it grabbed me. I pushed through a lot of the really painful, scary stuff at the beginning and discovered that I had a knack for it. It was a real hook for me to know that I had a knack for something that other people were esteeming me for. I did enjoy the sport, but the fact that I excelled in it had a lot to do with how much I enjoyed it and how much I was willing to put into it. I began rock climbing as much as I possibly could.

During that time, I worked at restaurants in the evening as a waiter. During the day, we'd go out in Yosemite Valley and climb a 1,000-foot cliff and have an incredible adventure, shower up, eat dinner, go to work, go to bed, wake up the next morning and do it all over again. It was incredible—it was just a lot of fun.

When rock climbing wasn't good, we'd be skiing. When skiing wasn't good, we'd be rafting down the rivers. When rafting wasn't good, we'd be hiking. I had a lot of youthful energy.

I got good at rock climbing. I would set little goals in it: If I could make this particular climb or at this certain level, I thought I would be really happy. I achieved those goals that I set over and over and over again. Yet, I wondered, "Why do I get exactly what I want, and I'm still not happy? I'm happy for a very short time. But why am I not happy in the long haul?"
I repeatedly went through that process of setting a goal and achieving it. I was really struck by the emptiness of it. I realized even then that it didn't matter what my goals were—education, a great job, great relationship or living in a certain place in a wonderful house—I knew that as soon as I achieved it, it would not satisfy. I could see that.

I remember sitting on a 3,000-foot cliff in Yosemite Valley for hours, quietly by myself, with my climbing partner 100 feet away, and thinking, "I've done the climbing thing. I think I should try something else." I remember the honesty of those feelings as they perked up. "But, you know, Mick, this is the thing you do best. You're so much better at it than so many people around you; don't even entertain those thoughts of trying to do something else. This is what you know how to do. This is who you are, this is where you get your accolades." On top of that, I did enjoy it. It was a great sport, even aside from all the weird mental games that people can play.

During my second year in Yosemite, I met a girl who was a Christian. She had a Bible that I would pick up and read. She became my girlfriend and later we got married. The only thing that really struck me in those years, besides achieving goals and how they didn't satisfy, happened when I read those words printed in red in the Bible, was that, "This guy is exactly who He says He is." I thought, "But, hey, I want to go rock climbing."

I quickly realized that if there is a God, that means He calls the shots. He makes the rules and I'm answerable to Him. I knew that it meant that I had to surrender my life — and I didn't want to do that. I wanted to go rock climbing. So, what originally started off as clear truth with those words in red in that Bible, just became kind of murky and dim, because I said, "I'm not going to listen to the truth. I'm going to do what I'm going to do."

After I married this girl, we moved to Mammoth and skied. After buying a ski pass one year, I remember hopping on the ski lift for the first ride of the year and realizing I had 100 days of incredible skiing ahead of me. I thought, "I've got it made! I can ski every single day I want to in an incredible resort. Other people have to work 50 weeks a year to do this." Yet, I had that same empty feeling.

As we lived in Mammoth, I started going to this little church. I was always drawn to these little churches in these little mountain areas. I would go and I kind of liked what I heard, but I still was just running my own life. I think God was just drawing me in, so that when the time came in my life when things would just kind of explode, I would lean on Him.

We moved to Truckee in 1982. I continued climbing like crazy, and enjoyed going to this church, for some reason. I had no idea what the pastor was talking about, but I enjoyed the singing. Like a football player pushes off a blocker, I had a straight arm out in God's face. "I'm running my own life," I thought. "I'm doing good." Meanwhile, I got better and better at rock climbing.

People gave us money to go climbing in Alaska. Reporters wrote articles in the local papers, and in the Reno paper with our names in it, "bla bla bla, is going to Alaska to climb a mountain." I thought it was so cool that people would give me money to go do this.

My marriage would be pretty rocky the year following my return home from Alaska, and I didn't really understand why. My wife and I barely communicated at all. The following spring I went on a trip to China. When I came home from China, I learned that my wife had had an affair during that year. She'd gotten pregnant with this guy when I was climbing in China.

All of a sudden, in the instant she told me, "I've been having an affair with this guy, and I'm pregnant with his kid," everything became so crystal clear. My whole life became SO crystal clear: I had been running it and I ran it right into the ground.

Right in that moment, there weren't any more doubts about Jesus. He became so real, in the blink of an eye. She was a great woman and I loved her a lot, but she wasn't first in my life—climbing was first in my life. So our marriage was not a solid relationship, as most marriages these days aren't when you're not pursuing the Lord of the universe, when you're not letting Him run your life. So, she ended up leaving. It was a really painful thing. I remember thinking, "I can't imagine anything more painful. Maybe if I had a child and he got killed, maybe that would be more painful. But I couldn't imagine experiencing any more physical or emotional pain. It just rocked me to the core. It made me really believe, it just made me really hang on to Jesus Christ. He was there. He was there in incredible ways.

I remember calling up Pastor Brian one time, just about four days into this crisis. Brian knew all about it, I had been at his house the night my marriage blew up. I remember calling him at about 3 in the morning, because I couldn't sleep. (I didn't sleep for weeks and weeks and weeks, lost weight, oh, it was just horrendous!) Brian picked up that phone like it was 3 in the afternoon, "Hello!"

I said, "Brian, this is Mick. I'm just having a really hard time." He just said, "I know." That's the only thing I can remember him saying: "I know." But he talked with me for about an hour. We hung up the phone around 4 a.m., and I went back to bed. It was late spring, so it was a pretty warm night. I remember having a sheet up to my neck and laying there when, all of a sudden, this warmth came over me—just on my face, not on my body or anywhere else, just on my face. It felt almost like a heat lamp. A smile came across my face that I thought for sure was going to split my lips. I thought my lips were just going to split down the middle and just keep going all the way out to my ears, because I could not even control this smile. I just drifted off in the most restful peace, and I knew that was the Lord. I knew that He was there.

For weeks on end, every time I woke up in the morning after my total of two hours of sleep, it was like a brick hitting me in the head with my reality. I clung to the Lord, to Christian music—singing about God, singing to God. Scriptures were all over my house to keep my mind in control because I had visions of this guy and my wife doing all kinds of stuff.

I went through about a year, and it got slowly better. I remember thinking, as summer faded to fall, "Wow, I made it through a season." When spring came around, I had been training again to go rock climbing and had some trips planned. I heard a still, small voice, which the Bible describes the way the Lord speaks in some places, saying to me, "Don't go climbing."

It had been about a year since my wife left and I had enough of my own strength back to climb. So, I said, "Lord, I'm going climbing."

After what had been a year of just walking with Jesus in an amazing way, my spiritual life started to decline, started to drift back down to just me, myself, and I again. I didn't want to leave the Lord, but that obedience seemed to be required and I just wasn't willing to give it up.

By the end of the summer, man, I just felt dead again. I had been rock climbing, but I just felt dead. I thought, "I don't know what the deal is, but whatever it takes, I've got to have what I had before." So, I just said, "Lord, I won't climb anymore."

People often ask me, what is it about climbing and being a Christian that you can't do both? It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with the fact that God is God, and you're not. He has a better plan for your life. Just believe Him and follow Him. There's not much He can do for you if you won't trust Him and let Him do it. He desires to do all kinds of things, but if you won't let Him, you're not going to leave from square one. And I didn't leave square one until I finally said "Yes" to the Lord.

There was one more thing that God had to deal with. Winter started coming around and I had a couple of ski passes. I was into skiing still when I heard that voice again, "Don't go skiing." I remember just grumbling, "Don't go skiing! These things don't make sense!" They never made sense to me at the time.

But, "Don't go skiing," meant letting those two ski passes just sit there. I told God, "I know that when I disobeyed before, when I wouldn't let You call the shots in my life, my life just drifted back down to nothing. So, whatever it takes, I'll do it." So, I grumbled and griped—but I didn't go.
In about three days, I felt like I left planet earth and just took off in the cosmos somewhere with the God of the universe. It was the most incredible spiritual awakening I could ever imagine. It was worth everything that God ever wanted me to just lay down. It was worth so much to open up the Bible and understand it, to open up the Bible and hear God speaking to me. You only have to hear that a few times in your life to make you say, "I've got to have more of this!"

I don't know anything about being a heroine junkie or a cocaine addict. I was never hooked on pot. I was never hooked on alcohol. But, you know, when you hear that voice it's like, "Man, I have got to have more of this!" He reveals Himself to you and you say, "This is life!" This is so indescribable, you become a babbling fool if you try to describe it to somebody. It's so beyond words. And that's just Him showing just a little bit of Himself.

I remember thinking months later, "Wow, I used to worship those big pyramids in the Himalayas—pyramids, the shape of mountains—long cracks through splitting faces of granite. I just thought those were the greatest things in the world! But, wow, to know the Guy who made those things! He knows the number of sands on the seashore. He is just so incredible. Just getting a taste of Him got me onto that path of following Him forever more.
You know that scripture in which Jesus talks about building your house upon the sand; when the winds and the storms come, and they blow, your house just gets knocked over—that was me a few years prior. Then Jesus talks about the man who builds his house upon the rock; when the winds and the storms come, that house stands. That is so true.

It has been 15 years since I gave my life to the Lord and just surrendered. He's taken a guy who could never even dream of having kids and has given me three kids, an incredible wife (who is another whole amazing testimony), and has just made my life model in so many ways. I'M not model—I know what's inside of me. I still deal with the humanity inside of me. But I look at my life and I'm just amazed. It's a model and it's God's work. Paul says in Ephesians chapter 2, "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works that He has foreordained that we should walk in." When it says that we're His workmanship, the word there is "poem." I look at my life and I can just see Him writing out the poem.

I put that straight arm in God's face for so long because I was afraid that He wanted to take from me what I thought was the most precious thing. I was so wrong. All He wanted to do was give—to give me life, and to free me.
Hebrews 2:15 talks about Jesus coming to earth and about the work that He would do: "…free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives." And it says that it was the devil who held them in that state because of their fear of death. The Bible likens surrendering your will to God's will to death. It's the death of your will. It's the death of you being in control of your life. Death sounds like a harsh word, but it is so practical.

God knows everything. He knows the beginning from the end. He knows what you want. He knows what will make you the happiest. He knows what you're capable of and you're out there just trying to run your own life. You can't do it. You're faking it all along, but if you just die to your feelings and die to your fears, man, he'll free you—and you'll be truly free. And you'll FEEL free.

Another verse that I like is Romans 12, verses 1 and 2, "So I beseech you by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto Him, that you may be able to prove what is acceptable, what is good and pleasing and perfect." Brian, our pastor tells us, when it says at the end of that verse, "what is good and pleasing and perfect," that those will be your words as you look back on your life when all is said and done. I believe that.

I look at my life at this point and I think, "God, it's been good, it's been pleasing, it's been perfect. You do know what I am made of. You do know what will make me the happiest. You do know what will make my life fulfilling."

It's just an incredible feeling to know that by surrendering your life to the Lord, by faith in Him, by Him being faithful to lead you and guide you, to work out all the difficulties, to work out all the junk in your life, that when you get to the end of this life, you will have no regrets. That's an incredible feeling, especially raising three kids and being married, having those relationships, just to know that at the end of my life that I'm not going to have any regrets. I truly believe that. That's extremely comforting.

I'll give you an example of following the Lord and truly what an adventure it is. I'm a person who was into adventures, who spent thousands of dollars flying around the world to put myself in the most desperate situations I could possibly survive. Yet, it doesn't compare to the adventure of walking with the Lord.

Mick Deiro playing with his kidsI first met my wife Shelly when I went to teach her high school youth group how to rock climb. I don't even remember meeting her, but she was in that youth group. Within 15 or 20 minutes of meeting me, she walked into her tent (we were camping) and told her best friend, "I just met the man I'm going to marry." Her friend laughed because she knew that I was already married. I was in the midst of a divorce, but I don't think they knew that; they just knew I was married.

Shelly would float through Truckee every now and then over the next few years, kind of looking for me, knowing that I lived somewhere around here. It was a family joke that Shelly was in love with this guy who was 11 years older than her and lived up in the Tahoe-Truckee area. We had a few conversations over the next couple of years.

One day, I walked into a church leadership conference and she was signing people up. As I walked in and looked at her, God said, "You're going to marry her."

It was about a week later when I had my first date with her. By our third date, I asked her to marry me and she said, "yes." The next night I was in a restaurant talking to her parents. Her dad was a pastor, and he was watching out for his daughter, but here's a guy who's had three dates with her and is asking to have her hand in marriage. By the time we all got up from that table, we had it figured out that within six weeks to two months we were going to be married.

From her side of the story, it was amazing. She didn't know if that was God or not. It was just a weird thing in her own mind, something that God had put in her heart at 16 years old. In fact, she was putting a roof on a house with somebody at her church, and she wrote on that roof, "I love Mick Deiro and some day I'm going to marry him." He saw it and gave her a hard time, so she covered it up. But it's there in Genoa on this beautiful Victorian house. When they re-roof that thing in another 15 years, they'll pull it off and they'll see that.

That's just one example of God knowing what's best for us. If you just follow Him, that is the great adventure.

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Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,  but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is -- his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2

Caleb & Jordan Deiro in the Devil's Bathtub in Yosemite Valley.

Mick Deiro's sons, Caleb and Jordan, in the Devil's Bathtub in Yosemite Valley.