Friday, February 13, 2009
Into Thin Air
I read Into Thin Air, a book about the disaster on Mount Everest that left 14 people dead, and I can't stop thinking about it. Although my life is not as engrossing and suspenseful and well-writtten, it does have some paralells. I am surrounded by death. I went 30 years without having anyone close to me die, and then in the past two years I've had a dear friend, a brother, my mom, and my dog pass away. Just yesterday my 28 year old nephew died, leaving behind two children and a grief-stricken family. I feel like I'm grieving a new grief every other minute. There are two kinds of people who climb Mt. Everest: serious mountaineers who have lots of training and practice climbing tall mountains in high altitudes, and rich tourists who pay lots of money to have guides take them on a big adventure. The first group has saved forever and trained arduously to accomplish a once-in-a-lifetime dream. They are prepared and equipped and organized. The second group wants a thrill, and they might not have trained as much as they should have. They might not have brought enough oxygen or they don't have the experience to be able to make good decisions when disaster strikes. When danger strikes, the experienced climbers must choose to either help those who are in such deep trouble that they could lose their lives, or try to make it to the top and fulfill their own dreams. I am the organized type. I plan, I have back-up solutions for back-up solutions. I don't overspend, I don't get drunk, I don't wait until the last minute. I ask for help long before I am desperate. But there are a lot of people in my life who don't make good choices and don't plan, and I am left loaning them my last oxygen bottle. The administrative things I do make me think I can control my life. But I'm climbing this mountain, and I keep getting jerked off my feet by someone at the other end who has fallen into a crevasse. And if I were not an arrogant, self-absorbed person I would follow my faith better when it tells me to "bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please yourself." (Romans 15) I think God is saying, "It's not about getting to the top. It's about the journey. It's about helping others along the way, and it's about life's experiences (difficult as they are) making you a holier person. It's not about YOU and YOUR goals. It's about ME and how I'm working out my purposes through you and conforming you to be like me." And I really really want to live with that attitude, but these blinding snowstorms and avalanches keep knocking me over.