I just finished reading Into Thin Air, the account of the tragedy on Mt. Everest in 1996. It is both appalling and riveting to read. I clearly saw how the obsession with summit fever can end in disaster and death. It would be easy to be judgmental here, that those climbers should have known better. But as I kept reading, something arresting kept prickling at me. Instead of criticism, I felt a bizarre kinship with the climbers.
The shared feeling of obsession came providentially. I was reading it as I spent a week in CO with my family for vacation. We got a cabin near the Rocky Mountain National Park and were all immediately smitten with the raw beauty. But with a week ahead to enjoy together, my mind instead went elsewhere. It went to my obsession.
I have loved hiking and backpacking for a long time. The spell of nature that mesmerized me in my adolescence has grown into powerful undertow that I feel compelled to submit to. And so the love became an obsession. Here’s how it worked on our vacation.
The day we arrived at the park, I began to pull out maps and drool over the trails and the possible adventures that awaited. But with thousands of acres of wilderness before us, that wasn’t enough. I found myself in an outdoor store the next day pulling out books on other wilderness areas in CO and looking for more trails. What am I doing? What am I searching for? I felt the gnawing split between my obsession and my beloved family.
I came back to our cabin, confused and fidgety. I needed clarity about this desperately. It came the next morning when I awoke to this Scripture: “Ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jer. 6:16). I sensed the Father telling me, Let it go.
In that moment, it felt like death letting my obsession go (as it always does), but I did it anyway, as best I knew how. And the needed rest for my soul came soon after. So did the fun. The rest of the week in CO turned out to be one gift after another from the Father to our family, from moose and elk close-ups to incredible alpine scenery.