One spring day I discovered that death can be closer than I ever expected. Until then, death seemed to be for people, old and ready, or for reckless people who knew death could come suddenly. That was what I thought before my day on Mount Timpanogos, near Provo, Utah.
There it was! Timpanogos peak in all its splendor towering above us. The streaked brown and gray of its steep cliffs drew dizzying contrast to the rolling snowfield of the basin below it. My friend and I had hiked a good portion of the day to conquer the peak, but we could see there was far too much snow to proceed to the summit. Nevertheless, the view was wonderful enough to make us feel the hike was worthwhile.
After savoring the moment, we started our descent, and it was a mutual decision that we should take a different, somewhat harder, route down. Then we saw a perfect place to do some sliding on the snow. We traversed the steep downhill slopes easily as we angled toward a large snowfield in the deep saddle between two rocky outcroppings.
As we came closer to the snowfield, we discovered we were not as close as we expected. We were 25 feet above it. We stood at the top of a sheer drop. At the base of the small cliff stretched acres of snow. The perfect ski run!
I looked at my friend. He smiled, sensing what I was thinking, and at that moment I knew what I was going to do. I sprinted from where I stood and jumped into space, straightening my body and spreading my arms. After endless seconds, I plunged into the snow, shoulder deep much to my surprise.
But my depth was only part of the problem. I discovered water was flowing underneath the snow, melting from above. Much to my dismay, I was being sucked underneath the crust of snow.
My friend, standing on top of the cliff, saw what was happening. He scurried down the hill to a much lower spot and hurled himself off the cliff. I watched him fall, praying he could avoid breaking through the snow’s crust.
He hit with a thud and immediately ran in my direction. My friend grasped my hand and began to haul me out. After he pulled me free, I lay on the snow breathing heavily.
He said to me, “Jon, that was stupid.” I knew he was right.
As I hiked the rest of the way down the mountain, wet from my knees down and a bit stunned by my close call, I was grateful my friend had saved me from the results of my stupidity. Because he was there, I did not have to pay the ultimate price for my unwise choice.
I know that in my life, I have another friend who has hiked alongside for as long as I can remember and is there to pull me out and rescue me from many pitfalls. Jesus Christ, my friend and Savior, is always willing to help when I reach out to him. Because his atonement made repentance possible, there is, through him, always a way out.