At least three climbers have died and two more are missing after summiting Mt. Everest this weekend. Overcrowding, difficult conditions, and a late afternoon windstorm are receiving much of the blame for the disastrous weekend on the world’s highest mountain. Everest has taken the lives of a great climbers. The zone about the last camp is referred to as the Death Zone. It’s icy slopes, dangerous weather and high altitude have claimed many lives. The lack of oxygen is such an issue that in many ways, when you enter the death zone you have begun the process of dying. It is only a question of whether or not you will make it to the top and then back down before you complete the process.
Some circumstances are so dangerous and make life so unsustainable that the conclusion of living within these circumstances seems a foregone conclusion. The only real question is can you escape before you die and what will it cost you to live in the death zone?
Many of our lives cross over into the death zone when they get dangerously unbalanced and unhealthy. For some of this the death zone is a physical reality. We have become so physically unhealthy, with what we consume, with our addictions to unhealthy food, with excess weight, and with high blood pressure etc., that the question isn’t whether or not we are killing ourselves, it is just how long until the end. For some of us the death zone is an unsustainable pace of life. Our jobs and commitments are so demanding that we can’t possibly be healthy. Like the oxygen starved air atop Everest, this pace is Spirit deprived and allows no room for God to talk to us. Our souls begin to die and are damaged by our lack of awareness and experience of God’s presence.
I keep thinking about pastors who are in charge of huge churches with massive budgets, tons of programs, large staffs and unbelievable amounts of stress and time commitments. Being the pastor of a megachurch sounds like a death zone job. Some can handle it, because they pack enough oxygen and have great Sherpas, but haven’t we lost enough men of God this way to recognize the unsustainable nature of this task for most people?
For some of us our marriages are the death zone. Starved of affection, quality time, spiritual intimacy, effective communication and a desire to serve one another, our marriages are suffocating and slowly dying. Some of them die out right and end, others die slowly and linger around lifelessly for decades. Regardless, they enter the death zone and the seldom come back out.
The hope we have as Christians, however, is that we worship a God who specializes in resurrection. He is not only big enough to resuscitate that which the death zone has injured, he has conquered death itself. So even when we have a part of our life in the death zone we believe that God can heal us with his breath of life. God can breath life into our marriages once again, no matter how dead they are. God can rescue us and repair the damage an unhealthy life style has brought upon us. Even if our bodies deteriorate God can heal our spirits and has promised us bodily resurrection in the life to come.
The people who have died on Everest have died willingly. They have put themselves intentionally into the death zone out of a passion to achieve the summit. Too often we do the same thing. Our hunger for something has driven us to an unsustainable place and it is killing us. I pray we hear the voice of God in that place and turn back that God might heal us and teach us a better way.