The solo hike into the Cascades at first exhilarated him, the exact medication his flagging spirits needed. But he sensed impending doom as dark clouds on the third day began dropping heavy snow.
As the snow thickened he found it increasingly difficult to find his way. He stopped to get his bearings, squared himself with the tree line, and plunged on. Stopping again, he raised one shoe, banged it on his other leg to clean it and stepped forward. The ground instantly gave way and he plunged into the blackness. Thumping against the canyon floor, he quickly rose from its waters, chilled to the skin, but thankful to have broken no bones.
He grasped for a candle in his backpack, lighted it and found himself in a cavern 10 feet wide and nearly 14 feet deep. Above him he could distinguish the patch of gray light where he had broken through. Below him a foot of water washed his rubber-soled boots.
After exploring the cavern he determined that it had no exit other than the small hole so far overhead. As he ate sparingly from his food supply he tried to think of a way out. When he remembered the 30 foot climbing rope in his pack, he formulated a plan. He would tie a stone to one end and throw it up, out of the hole. It might catch on or between something and he could haul himself out. Not the most hopeful of possibilities, but at least something and…by far, better than doing nothing.
At first light he began. Looping the rope securely around the rock, he flung it as a missile up and out of the cave. More than 20 times it went up and out, only to fall back in, clattering against the walls and splashing in the brook rushing through the crevice.
He decided to pitch around the entire hole, figuring the systematic effort would bring success. All day long he tried, only to see the rock hurtle back each time. That night he napped, standing against the wall, his boots soaked in the water.
The next morning he returned to the routine: throw, pull, dodge the falling missile, then return to throw, pull and dodge. Late that afternoon the rock caught. When he yanked on it, it held. So, laden with his poles, pack and snowshoes he began the hand-over-hand effort to hoist himself up and out. To his bitter disappointment, the rope went slack and he plunged back into frigid isolation.
He fell into a fitful sleep that night, having thrown the rope over a tree root and fixed it as a sling. After sleeping 24 hours, sharp pains in his legs aroused him and he instantly ate to gain strength.
He threw the rope again, and it held. But as he put his full weight on it, back it came. Several hours later it caught again, with the same result.
Aware of the need to keep his wits, he realized that hypothermia had begun sapping his strength. He wobbled as he walked and spoke to himself in blurred undertones More alarmingly, the stream had begun to rise, washing at his knees. He had to get out, and soon, or he would die.
He grabbed the stone, flung it with all his strength out into the night. It came back in. He threw it again, with the same result. He threw it again and again, with no result. And then…the line held. More encouragingly, when he hung from the rope, it held his weight.
Once again he tied his equipment around him and began the hand-over-hand effort. When he needed to rest, he seized the rope in his teeth, and bit till he could pull again. By inches he toiled upwards, every second climbing to safety, each moment bringing him nearer the opening. Then, suddenly, he felt rain and wind on his face.
At the surface he tilted his upper body back and kicked up with his right leg, slamming it into the snow outside. He twisted over backwards, his whole body came out and he tumbled from his prison, free at last.
Forcing himself to walk, he plodded ten miles through the rain until he reached a highway. As he climbed to its surface headlights approached. He stuck out his thumb and was picked up.
He had found himself in a do-or-die situation. It was save himself or perish. No one could help. And, though his friends had reported him overdue, and volunteer searchers in snowmobiles searched his map route, they found nothing. Helicopters had also searched, but to no avail. He was dead unless he could extricate himself.
Because he tried, and kept trying, time after time, hour after hour, day after day, he succeeded. The toss that saved him had wound its way around the limb of a dead tree. (Reader’s Digest, Date Unknown)
Try, try, try again. Never, never, never give up. It saved him.
An amazing feat. A fortunate man, indeed.
Spiritually, the man represents many who seek to be saved by their own efforts, who keep trying, whatever failure they experience, who never give up, however much they are shown it can’t be done.
Maybe by a superhuman effort we can save ourselves from physical death the way that man did. But in being saved from sin, never. We can’t find that dead tree limb around which we can wrap our hopes and toward which we can haul ourselves to safety. There is no way…none…zero…for us to be saved by personal effort. That must come from God.
Some people may not realize that God has provided the way out for us, and they search, panic-stricken, for a means to find salvation, to appease the deity they believe in and trust. They need to be told of the way God has already provided; many of them will accept.
Others know that a way has been provided, but they have little faith in it; they think it’s too simple, foolish, ancient, etc; or they want to find their own way. They must be warned that no other way exists. Jesus has made access to God possible. We must seek it through him or we’ll never find.
Whoever it may be, all must know: Christ alone saves us from sin. No one else…not we or another can. Only He. He will save all who come and ask forgiveness, none exempted. But all who seek elsewhere will never find and…be forewarned, everyone…they will die in their sins.