1. Utah’s Blue John Canyon becomes the lonely and bewilderingly painful setting for this incredible true story. Aron Ralston goes climbing in the canyon without telling anyone else where he has gone. Whilst exploring the canyon he falls down a crevice and lands near the bottom mostly unharmed, except for the fact that a falling boulder has pinned his right arm to the crevice wall. No matter what he does, and he tries many things, he cannot pull his arm free. His food runs out, his water is getting low. In the following five days he reflects on his life and his relationships, and makes a tough, incredibly brave choice.
This is a story of survival and perseverance. The Bible is full of stories like this. In the Old Testament Ruth and Naomi lose everything. All the men in their life have died, which in their culture means they have lost their source of income and inheritance. They become refugees and resort to begging for food. Job is a guy who loses everything too. Family, wealth, business… it’s almost comical the speed at which his life is turned to ruins. The Bible is jammed with the stories of people who face extreme difficulty in this life. Have you faced great difficulty yourself? Or know others who have?
2. Aron’s experience draws courage and patience out of him. This appalling experience develops in him unexpected qualities. At one point, when he thinks another climber is nearby he goes bananas yelling and screaming for help. No one comes. However he has inadvertently filmed himself doing this and when he watches the footage back he tells himself, ‘Don’t lose it now.’ In the movie Evan Almighty (quite a different vehicle to this one!) God asks Evan’s wife if someone prays for patience does she think God gives them patience, or gives them opportunities where they can develop it? This is a hard question. No one wants difficult things to happen, yet goodness often comes out of great difficulty. This may have been true for you, can you look back and see times when hardships drew unexpected qualities out?
3. Early on in the movie Aron meets two other explorers, Kristi and Megan. He takes them onto a crevice in the rocks and encourages them to let go and freefall. Eventually they trust him and land in deep water in a cavern. It is a powerful and exhilarating experience which they quickly repeat. Aron would never wish to repeat his second fall of that day. The problem with taking risks is that sometimes they work out and lead us somewhere new, at other times they prove catastrophic, or at best disappointing. We easily talk of taking risks when we discuss Christian faith, of moving out of our comfort zones, but people can be damaged and disappointed by their bad experiences. How about you? Can you understand this, can you relate to this?
4. Aron films himself, leaving a message for his family. He realises that his past relationships have not been great. Before he left for this trip his mother called but he was too busy to answer the phone. If he had answered she would have known where he had gone. It is said that people were made to be loved, and things to be used. Yet we often get this the wrong way round. We all neglect vital relationships because other things seem more important. Work, TV, sport, shopping, they continue to chip away at the quality of our relationships. Is there any genuine way we can counter this? Or will it always be these tough, difficult experiences things that help us regain perspective?
5. This story is one of incredible perseverance. Aron must hang on, must not give up if he is to escape. He must keep trying, not least when he makes his final, brutal bid for freedom. Jesus faced incredible difficulty in his life, opposition, misunderstanding, the temptation to give up. And in the end it would take all his strength to not avoid his final, brutal bid for freedom. He was as human as Aron, yet unlike Aron, he could have snapped his fingers and avoided the painful solution. This was another added pressure, and one he faced in his time in the desert. He could have chosen a way to avoid pain and hardship, but he refused. For him the difficult way was a choice he made. In the gospel of Luke chapter 9 we are told he set his face like flint, resolutely set out on this final brutal leg of his journey. Can you relate to this? Can you draw strength from it? I do not have the courage of Aron or Jesus if I’m honest, but that doesn’t mean their stories don’t push me on. They terrify me and inspire me. How about you?