It was his own fault.
Aron Ralston. The guy who cut his arm off. Trapped in a canyon in the middle of nowhere with a boulder on his hand and no hope of rescue.
It was his own fault.
Never hike alone. Never go into the wilderness without telling someone where you are and when you’ll be back.
Simple rules and he ignored them.
And when the big rock tottered back under his weight and only one hand got out and he was eight miles from anybody and his stuff was really in the wind, it was his own fault.
Which is good to know.
Because usually it’s that way. When things go wrong, there’s a reason. And usually we are the reason. We are the cause of most of our problems.
We’re not always honest enough to acknowledge it. But it’s usually the case.
Aron Ralston shouldn’t have been there. He shouldn’t have been alone. He shouldn’t have left home without telling anyone where he was going.
Just like us.
And, just like us, it didn’t matter how he got into the mess, the issue was, how was he going to get out.
For five days he didn’t know. He stood there, in a 3-foot gap in the rock, resting sometimes on a climbing harness he had rigged. Standing there and thinking. Sometimes in fear, sometimes in hope, sometimes in prayer.
With a certain calm, a certain ability to endure, a certain pledge to move on.
In the dark he felt like his family was there, like he wasn’t alone, like maybe God was watching over him. And he offered a deal. My right hand for my life.
Water ran out after the third day.
And that is when he started cutting on his arm. It was a cheap, dull knife and as he pressed against the skin it wouldn’t cut. Not at first. And after two days of cutting he was through most of the muscle but the bone wouldn’t give.
Which is when he had the revelation.
That’s the word he used. Another word was “inspiration.” Like God was talking to him. Like God did talk to him. By making something clear. By putting thoughts into his head.
Engineering thoughts. Like he learned back in college. About torque and force.
He said he was thrilled. Like the joy of a reprieve had come to him. The anticipation of a life yet to be lived.
So packed his bag and got ready to leave. And he laid out his tools.
And he twisted his body up in the way it had come to him. With the radius against the rock. And he pushed. And it snapped.
Sure, there was pain. But he dealt with it. And he moved on.
To the ulna.
He positioned it against the rock, and twisted his body up as before. And he pushed. And it snapped.
And then he cut the rest with his knife. There were already a couple of tourniquets and he put on a couple of more and put the stump in a plastic bag with a canteen back over that and climbed out.
With one arm.
And a 60-foot rope climb down the rock face.
To a hollow in the rock where he drank his fill and replenished his canteens.
He was eight miles from his truck across some tough country and he got seven miles of it crossed before he met anybody. A couple of Dutch hikers, and they gave him Oreos.
Then they waved down a helicopter and a week later he stood smiling before the reporters telling his story.
About how each day we have to climb our mountain. And how if we come upon a day that we’re not then we ought to be concerned.
Which is true.
But that’s not the point I’ll remember.
What I will remember is the tenacity and faith Aron Ralston brought to his predicament. I will remember how committed he was to survival and escape. The price he had to pay and the pain he had to endure. I will remember how he went to God for help, and God answered, and Aron Ralston walked free and alive.
Even though it was his own fault.
Even though the problem which almost consumed him was a problem of his own making.
I don’t blame him for getting into it, but I do honor him for getting out of it.
He is a hero.
He beat himself. He overcame his own mistakes and bad judgment. He paid a price, but he survived. And he was grateful.
Which I will remember.
Because I will make mistakes. I will make misjudgments. I will do the wrong thing.
And it will trap me. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. I will do it.
And so will you.
And when I reap the harvest of my own mistakes, I will remember the brave example of Aron Ralston. He got out, and so can I. God heard his prayers, and God will hear mine.
Just like he will hear yours.
The point of Aron Ralston is not what got him into trouble, but what got him out of trouble.
The same is true of us.
And the promise is the same for us. If we can match his courage and determination.