First, you should really see this in PDF format (look for the link above). Then, you can read the first chapter excerpt in text form here.
Today we received the call. It was Betty, our assistant. Her voice trembled.
“Have you heard about Craig?” she asked. Craig DeMartino, our co-worker, friend, and gifted photographer, had been rock climbing yesterday in Rocky Mountain National Park.
So far, this was not unusual. We knew Craig loved to climb. His many years of experience cemented his reputation as a strong, agile, careful, and safety-minded Colorado rock climber. His wife, Cyndy, climbs too. In fact, she’s a climbing instructor. Next to spending time with their two small children, there’s no place they’d rather be than clinging to the side of a high rock face somewhere.
But something went horribly wrong yesterday afternoon.
Craig and his climbing partner, Steve, decided to scale Sundance Buttress—a vertical granite face in a remote section of the national park. Using all the proper equipment, Craig pulled himself to the top of the climb, while Steve fed him the rope from below.
Steve thought he heard Craig say, “Off belay,” giving Steve the OK to let go of the rope. Steve bent over to put on his climbing shoes, in preparation to follow Craig up the cliff.
But there was a miscommunication. For at the same time, Craig yelled, “It’s all you,” indicating he expected Steve to anchor his rope and ease him down the cliff. In a flash, the coil of Craig’s rope near Steve snapped vertical and shot upward.
Steve looked up in time to see Craig falling through the air like a frantic string puppet. With a sickening thud, Craig slammed into the boulder-strewn base of the cliff.
Steve scrambled to Craig's side. The height of the fall raced through Steve’s mind. “People die falling that distance,” he told himself. That distance was one hundred feet, considered by climbers as the “death zone.”
But Craig was still breathing. In fact, he was conscious, but he was critically injured.
Through peculiar circumstances, rescuers quickly reached Craig. But the evacuation from this extremely rugged location chewed up the rest of the afternoon. When the helicopter finally landed at the hospital with Craig aboard, six hours had slipped away since the fall.
Emergency room doctors quickly assessed Craig’s injuries. Broken back. Broken neck. Spinal cord 90 percent compromised. Splintered feet and ankles. Internal injuries.
Cyndy rushed to the hospital. The doctor pulled her aside and said that, given all his injuries, Craig may live an hour.
One hour? Come on, God! There lay Cyndy’s husband, their two kids’ daddy, our friend—unable to move, unable to speak. But still conscious, hearing the doctors’ worried words swirling around him.
What does a person do with an hour to live? What’s the most important thing?
Sometimes it takes an extreme, on-the-edge moment like this to startle us into facing what’s most crucial in life. Distractions melt away. What once seemed important evaporates.
With one hour to live, what was The 1 Thing Craig needed?
Millions faced a sobering moment on September 11, 2001.
Thousands were killed and injured. Suddenly we felt vulnerable, exposed, fragile, targeted. Mayhem and death seemed excruciatingly close.
What would happen next? The agony of uncertainty seemed to suspend the passage of time in an eerie and unfamiliar way.
People began to ask the big questions. What’s really important?
Beyond the daily grind, the job, the money, the stuff, the prestige--what’s really important? What’s the meaning of life?
The events of September 11 drove millions to plumb the depths of spiritual searching. Churches noted a spike in attendance. Some called it the opportunity of a millennium for churches: to be there, ready, at the very time the masses were desperate for The 1 Thing.
But was the church ready? Church attendance ballooned by 15 percent after the attacks. Then, after a few weeks, attendance receded to normal.
We checked with American pollster George Gallup Jr.:
6% of Americans polled say they believe in God.
41% attend church. Even many of the church-going, however, seem to claim only a thin faith. Only 13% have a deep and transforming faith.
But few are satisfied with a weak faith. The masses crave a deeper faith. 82% desire spiritual growth.
So where’s the church in all of this?
Two-thirds of Americans polled say most churches are “NOT EFFECTIVE in helping people find meaning in life.”
Whoa! Hold on! Most people want to grow in their faith.
But most don’t feel churches are helping them find real meaning in life.
People are searching. And if the church isn’t attracting or satisfying them, they’re looking elsewhere. The quest for spiritual moorings is not going away.
This growing hunger for faith and deeper meaning predates September 11, 2001, and other recent scares. A movie in the early ’90s probed the populace’s search for meaning in life.
City Slickers told the story of three urban guys looking for something more in life. Mitch, played by Billy Crystal, told his wife, “I just feel lost.”
The three guys didn’t look for help in the church. They headed out West and joined a wilderness cattle drive--looking for meaning in life.
Along the trail they became acquainted with Curly, a crude cowboy played by Jack Palance. He’d seen seekers like these before. “None of you get it,” he told Mitch. “Do you know what the secret of life is? One thing. Just one thing.”
“That’s great, but what’s the one thing?” Mitch asked.
“That’s what you gotta figure out,” Curly said.