At the conclusion of his book, Into Thin Air, outdoorsman and author Jon Krakauer recounts a conversation he had with fellow climber Neal Beidleman after they both successfully made it down from Mount Everest in May, 1996 — the same month when 12 people died attempting to climb the world’s highest peak. Beidleman had led five clients down the mountain, saving their lives. But he remained troubled by the one whom he could not and did not save.
‘As soon as the sky cleared enough to give us an idea where camp was,’ he recounted, ‘it was like, “Hey, this break in the storm may not last long, so let’s GO!” I was screaming at everyone to get moving, but it became clear that some people didn’t have enough strength to walk, or even stand.
‘People were crying. I heard someone yell, “Don’t let me die here!” It was obvious that it was now or never. I tried to get Yasuko on her feet. She grabbed my arm, but she was too weak to get up past her knees. I started walking, and dragged her for a step or two, then her grip loosened and she fell away. I had to keep going. Somebody had to make it to the tents and get help or everybody was going to die.’
Beidleman paused. ‘But I can’t help thinking about Yasuko,’ he said when he resumed, his voice hushed. ‘She was so little. I can still feel her fingers sliding across my biceps, and then letting go. I never even turned to look back.’
The image Krakauer paints of Beidleman is haunting. It is most haunting because when you hire a guide, you expect him not only to bring all his available resources to bear on a given problem, but you expect him to have all the needed resources at his disposal. Unfortunately, the finite frailty of a human guide dictates that he often will inevitably fail you.
Fortunately, God never will. He cannot fail you.
“…you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:25b; NASB)
In matters that are most important — the matters of the soul — He is the Shepherd who will always guide His wandering sheep back to safety. He is the Guardian (the word is the same one that is variously translated in the New Testament “overseer,” or “bishop”) who will protect the human heart of His people.
The image is that God is the One who not only feeds and sustains His own, but He also guides, directs and protects them — with all the eternal resources of heaven at His disposal! As the Shepherd and Guardian of your soul, God is leading you, feeding you, and preparing for you an eternal home. He’s befriending you, defending you, and finding you when you have gone away. He has received us, forgiven us, and freed us from the overwhelming power of sin.
When on the most important journey you can undertake — the pilgrimage of the soul, there is no more important, resourceful and dependable guide to be found than the eternal God of heaven.
The Lord really is our Shepherd. There is no safer place to be.