An old 14th century French proverb says, “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.” But would you cut off your arm to save your life? Would you do it to save someone else’s?
Aron Ralston had been on a simple Saturday bike ride up a canyon in an area of Utah’s Canyonlands National Park. His plan was to ride to the top, hike down the bluffs, then take his truck back to the top, get his bike and go home. The entire trip would only take about seven or eight hours, and would be so mundane he didn’t bother to give his roommate an itinerary, which was his normal routine.
On his way down, Aron, an accomplished mountaineer who has climbed 59 of the highest peaks in Colorado, used his rock-climbing equipment to make his way down the steep, narrow passageways, which in some areas are only three feet wide. He made his way down the side of the mountain for almost two hours and was only 60 feet from the floor of the canyon when he came to three large boulders wedged in the canyon wall. He climbed over them and was attempting to lower himself, when one of the boulders shifted and pinned his arm against the face of the cliff.
Somehow, he was able to move so he could stand upright. But he couldn’t move his arm, which was now trapped under the weight of an 800-pound boulder. Rescuers said he used climbing gear to rig up a webbed sling and attempted to move the giant rock off his arm, but it was too heavy and he was forced to stand there, unable to move, for five days. On Tuesday, his water ran out. On Thursday, he realized no one would ever find him in such a remote area of the canyon. So, he decided to amputate his own arm in an attempt to save his life. He used a dull pocketknife to cut off his arm below the elbow and rappelled 60 feet to the canyon floor, then walked almost six miles until he met a Dutch couple and their son, who helped him flag down a helicopter flying overhead.
Ironically, the pocketknife he used was dull because he had tried unsuccessfully to chip away at the boulder. Another amazing aspect of the story is that Aron actually rehearsed amputating his arm. Three days before he actually severed his arm, he had tried but failed to pierce the skin with his dull knife. So, he did a dress rehearsal, thinking through everything he would need to do including applying a tourniquet, having his bike shorts laid out to absorb blood, deciding how he would get through the bone and how he would then lower himself the remainder of the way.
In Aron Ralston’s own words, here’s what happened: “I was able to snap the radius, and then within another few minutes snap the ulna at the wrist, and from there, I had the knife out and applied the tourniquet and went to task. It was a process that took about an hour.” Eric Weiss, who is considered a specialist in wilderness medicine said, “He took a small knife and was able to amputate his arm in such a way that he did not bleed to death.” Weiss said Ralston’s actions were “the quintessential example of someone improvising in a dire situation.”
Ranger Stephen Swanke, who helped coordinate the search effort, said the helicopter pilots would have never found Aron Ralston in that narrow canyon. Swanke said, “I’ve been doing search and rescue for 23 years and I’ve never seen anything like this. He was just a phenomenal individual with an unbelievable will to live.”
“Every day their actions are absolutely heroic and manifestly miraculous.”
Let me tell you about some other phenomenal individuals who have an unbelievable will, not for their own survival, but for the survival of people they don’t even know yet. These are the millions of dedicated Christians who comprise the Church of the Lord, JESUS CHRIST. They are people who are willing to do whatever it takes and pay any price to see every person possible come to know Him as Lord and Savior.
As the most remarkable volunteer-driven, volunteer-funded organization in the world, they build churches, hospitals, schools, orphanages, nursing homes and assisted care living facilities, homes for unwed mothers, colleges, seminaries and numerous other non-profit and para-church organizations. They develop ministries, provide programs, give free counseling, direction and encouragement, fund worldwide missions causes, help families, support singles, widows and widowers, teach and train children, produce leaders and workers, respond to crises all over the world, meet multiplied millions of needs on a global basis, and never ask for anything in return.
Thank God for the Church! Every day their actions are absolutely heroic and manifestly miraculous as they reach out in every way imaginable to rescue those who find themselves hopelessly stuck between a rock and a hard place. This time, it’s not the wall of a canyon cliff somewhere in Utah, but the precarious precipice of eternity. That vast, unfathomable canyon between Heaven and Hell.
And this time, no one can save themselves, even if they have a pocketknife.
They'll need JESUS for that.
We all do!
© 2021. Barry L. Cameron
Barry Cameron is a devoted father and husband, bestselling author, dynamic communicator, and Senior Pastor of Crossroads Christian Church. Crossroads has a gorgeous, 150-acre campus in Grand Prairie, Texas. More than 8000 people call Crossroads their church home. Barry’s latest book, The Road to Financial Freedom, came out in the fall of 2020 and is available on Amazon. It’s another game changer for individuals and families who want to fix their finances once and for all.
Barry and his wife, Janis, have three children: Katie, Matt and Kelli. A daughter-in-law, Lindley and a son-in law, Johnny. They also have two grandsons, Will and Levi. Their family has been completely debt free since November 15, 2001.
Crossroads Christian Church has been debt free since November 9, 2008.