March 2, 1993
The “high point” of our vacation was Mount Hafelekarspitze in the Alps! I am terrified of heights — so what was I doing 2334 meters, or nearly 8000 feet, up? Well, my husband wanted me to go. He’s a skier, we were in Austria and who could visit Innsbruck, home of the Winter Olympics, without checking out the slopes?
I argued. Most average ski slopes contradict my desire for stability. Some of those runs are far from average. The sign said they angled at 70o. So much for the idea that those wild ski films are done with the camera tilted. There even were people defying the warnings about alpine risks and actually skiing down them! Besides, the cable car was far above the tree tops and the ski lodge at the top looked like it was much too close to the edge.
This was one of those situations when any acrophobic like me gives some thought to why people would want to defy gravity and put themselves in danger. Even Bob admitted one slip and a skier would not stop rolling for hundreds of feet. Perhaps they do it because they are somehow convinced of being invincible, or maybe they cannot imagine our own death?
Whatever the reasons, the reality about our lives is not invincibility. We all know that Hebrews 9:27 is true: every one of us is “destined to die once.” Yet to me, risk-taking is a serious business. For one thing, destiny (some call it fate) does not mean it is safe to take foolish chances. No one knows for sure when their time is up so why push it? Besides, taking risks may not mean we will die but it could result in a painful and crippling injury. That, I can imagine.
Maybe the notion of being invincible actually disguises a fear of dying; a reluctance to face the issue. We knew a man who would take risks but refused to use the word death. When his parents were killed in an automobile accident, he never talked about it at all.
Hebrews 9:27 applies to that fear too. The entire verse says “Man is destined to die once, and after that faces judgment.” Perhaps risk-taking, defying death, fear of dying and a desire to be invincible, are all somehow connected to a stubborn hope that judgment can be bypassed, that it does not apply to me, that it will not really happen.
No wonder the Bible says the fear of death holds us in bondage, even robs us of the enjoyment of living. It was that thought that coaxed me up Mount Hafelekarspitze. I decided whether or not God choose this as my time to die, I did not need to fear death because Jesus died for me on another mountain nearly 2000 years ago. Furthermore, He conquered death three days later and invited all to participate in that same overcoming power.
This is simply power to beat odds, odds that seem unbeatable: billions to 1. Yet anyone can conquer death by receiving His gift of eternal life through forgiveness and justification by faith. That means God looks at us just as if we have never sinned, and in His eyes we are clean as the snow on alpine peaks.
Because of Jesus, the view at the top was awesome. We gazed at miles of valleys below and over 400 other mountain tops. He not only created all of it but, through faith, gave us a deep sense of His power to overcome fear (even acrophobia) and replace it with appreciation and worship.
No wonder the psalmist says of God, “Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O LORD, you preserve both man and beast.”