S E P T 2 0 1 5 O C T


Encountering the Unexpected On Your Way to the Mountaintop by Dan Bateman A s 2015 winds down and we continue our theme of “Mountain tops and Valleys” , events on Mount Everest earlier this year reminded me how treacherous the trip to the mountaintop can be. On April 25th, an earthquake in Nepal triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest resulting in the deaths of nineteen climbers and guides who were at base camp on the mountain. If you’ve seen the video of the avalanche taken by one of the climbers, the weather was clear and bright prior to the disaster. When the ground began to shake, the mountain climbers thought it just something odd as evidenced by their brief and quizzical conversation. While they felt something was amiss, it was only upon seeing the spec- tacular and deadly snow plume rushing down the mountainside did the climbers realize their lives were in danger as they used the precious few seconds they had to find cover. Terror and fear can be heard in their voices as the avalanche spread over them like the angel of death men- tioned in the ten plagues of the Bible. Just as quickly, the avalanche passed and the surviving climbers began the sorrowful task of recover- ing bodies of friends and guides. The irony of this calamitous event was the cause of the avalanche itself. It was not tons of snow unable to be supported by its own weight. Neither was it an unrelenting snowfall of such magnitude the moun- tain itself could not contain the snow. And, no, it was not the perilous perch of the base campers that threatened their lives. Ironically, the avalanche was caused by an earthquake whose epicenter was 140 miles west of Mount Everest. In some ways, it mimicked a devastating ocean tsunami hundreds of miles from an earthquake epicenter. But, in this case, instead of mil- lions of gallons of ocean water, it was tons and tons of snow racing and plunging downward from great heights; increasing in momentum and in life-crushing force as it hurtled down the mountain. In life, like in mountain climbing, the real danger facing us may not be readily apparent. Oh, we can prepare for the known and potentially expected inherent dangers of mountain climbing. We can train and pur- chase all the right equipment for the known hazards of scaling heights. But, no matter how much preparation we make, nothing prepares us for the unexpected danger that presents itself from an unknown quarter. We can learn some lessons of life from the devastating tragedy of the Mount Everest avalanche. While the analogy may be stretched somewhat, there is still value in realizing that in life, as in mountain climbing, there are unexpected dangers from events you could not possibly expect. The epicenter of the Nepal earthquake triggered an avalanche 140 miles away much like a series of events in life, wholly unrelated to your climb, can have devastating consequences. The overarching lesson in scaling the mountaintops of life, with all its known dangers, does not denigrate the value inherent in the ef- fort to reach the summit both in life and career. We face setbacks on our life journey all the time. And while we can expect and prepare for the usual, it is the unexpected event that can literally stop us in our tracks as we trek upward.

To some, the thought of not making it to the top may prevent further ascent. Others may reflect, pause, and think it was not worth the effort and live with regret. Some may view the calamity as proof life is not fair and descend, instead, into the valley of vindictiveness, de- spair, and depression. Still others may question their very foundational values faced with the threatening dangers of life’s “avalanches”. We may be able to take comfort and firm resolve in someone else who made it to the summit but failed to reach his goal, although he was able to see it from afar. Moses, of the Old Testament in the Bible, led God’s people from slavery to freedom in the Promised Land. On the arduous journey, Moses’ frustration with the people caused him to make an “avalanche” mistake by claiming, in one instance, the blessing of refreshing water from a rock was his doing rather than God’s. Be- cause of that, Moses was prevented from entering the Promised Land but was blessed to see it from a mountaintop. Lesser men would have given up or, worse yet, turn their back on God. Not Moses! He continued his leadership of God’s people with renewed vigor and commitment to serve... even when it meant he would not reach the goal! We would do well to follow Moses’ example and continue in our effort even when life’s avalanches come out of nowhere. In our careers and in our personal lives, the words of Theodore Roosevelt delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, on April 23, 1910 would be worth remembering: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them bet- ter. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Blessings as we journey together towards life’s mountaintops!

Dan Bateman, Chaplain dbateman@fbinaa.org 586.484.3164


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