It’s Only Fun Til Someone Gets Hurt | Leadership & Outdoor Dangers

Branding the Mind with Visual Imagery

Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; beside the gates leading into the city, at the entrances, she cries aloud… (Proverbs 8:1-3)

Many years ago, I took my older brother mountaineering to the top of the continental divide under a star filled sky to view the city lights of Boulder, Colorado below. We arrived via snowmobile and hiked the remaining 100 yards to the summit.

At the time, I didn’t consider myself a leader. He is my big brother after all. Even though I led the expedition into the backcountry, I hadn’t really thought much about any outdoor dangers there might be on this route. And I certainly wasn’t thinking about the fact that I was the one with more outdoor leadership skills and that I would have to be the one to recognize dangers and keep us safe as we scaled the ridge. I was about to learn a major wilderness leadership lesson.

More than a Sinking Feeling

We reached the summit. I watched him walk out to the edge of the moonlit cliff and look over. Suddenly, he dropped.  Only his upper torso was free to hold on. My mind raced as I immediately realized he was teetering on the edge of death. The wind blown wall of cantilevered snow could fracture and let go at any moment. I knew in that instance that my oversight of where the true edge of the cliff was could cost him his life. In an instant reaction I pulled him to safety. Even then, he didn’t have any true understanding of the serious danger he was in; that is, until I told him.

There are many lessons to glean from this experience. The imagery is forever branded in the back of my mind. As backcountry enthusiasts, guides, and spiritual leaders not only are we called to hone our awareness of outdoor dangers, but we are also in a position to help people learn lessons about spiritual realities from the wilderness terrain.

I can think of instances in my life when I stood on top of a “snow cornice” of sorts where, for example, the cliff of self-pity gave way to an avalanche of despair. The book of Proverbs offers the wisdom we need to live with a heightened awareness of the dangers looming all around us.

Making the Most of DANGER

How might we use Proverbs 8 and the wilderness terrain to show others how to anticipate spiritual dangers? In the story above, the “mind searing” imagery of our dangerous situation above snow line awakens me to the looming spiritual pitfalls of life as well. Here is an acronym (DANGER) that you might use with a group in the wilderness to teach the main point of Proverbs 8 with an experiential learning edge to it:

  • D: Danger looms! In the wilderness and life, be on the look-out for danger. Gain prudence, not just understanding. Use discretion, foresight, and exercise good judgment when exposed to the obvious and not-so-obvious physical and spiritual dangers (Proverbs 8:5).
  • A: Be aware! The world, the devil, and our flesh will provide spiritual danger for us to fall in to. Awareness saves you and me from traps and keeps us off thin ice. (Proverbs 8:6-11).
  • N: Say NO! It’s better to prevent the avalanche of despair then to be buried under it. The school of hard knocks, although common, can be avoided with the right choices (Proverbs 8:12-21).
  • G: GO in victory! Wisdom has always been a part of God’s providential plan (Proverbs 8:22-31).
  • E: Erase the curse! If you or someone you love is buried under an avalanche of despair become a first responder to offer loving kindness and in time point them toward wisdom (Proverbs 8:32-34).
  • R:Rejoice in wisdom! Celebrate wisdom as a shelter and safe place to live. (Proverbs 8:35-36).

Take Action

  • Spend a few moments remembering a dangerous situation you have experienced in the wilderness. Were you prepared to handle that situation? Can you identify any poor decisions you made along the way that got you into danger?
  • Are you walking on any spiritual cornices right now? Take some time to slow down and think about your habits and choices and lifestyle patterns right now. Could you possibly be wandering into any spiritual danger? How can you correct your course?
  • Find a passage of Scripture that can lead you out of danger and on to the spiritual summits Jesus is inviting you to climb.

Guest Blogger | Edy Sutherland

Edy is an outdoor adventure sport junkie, uses her experiences in the wilderness as the back story to write object lessons. She desires to build up the body of Christ to maturity to know God so intimately their souls joyfully sing “Wheee!” Edy’s blogs are where she develops the new lessons God is presenting to her. Visit her author site at