Great news! The odds say you aren’t going to die in an avalanche.

Seriously, I looked it up. Avalanches kill only about thirty people per year in the United States, which means you’re looking really good for avoiding a demise of this nature.

Still, I’d be remiss if I didn’t let you know you could still be in an avalanche. If it did actually happen to you, I wouldn’t want your lack of preparation to be on my conscience.

In case it does happen, here’s an important avalanche survival tip:† Spit first. Dig second.

† You’re actually five times more likely to be killed by a falling coconut. But I couldn’t find any helpful tips for surviving death by coconut.

That’s it. Pretty simple, right?

Turns out one of the biggest mistakes people make when caught in an avalanche is that, once they’re covered over with tons of snow, they dig blindly trying to get out. The dig part is a good idea. Blindly, not so much. It’s too easy to dig in the wrong direction, burrowing deeper into the snow.

Popular Science magazine wrote about one such victim. When rescue teams found his body, they discovered that in his furious attempts to dig out, he’d accidentally dug some thirty feet deeper. The victim expended every ounce of strength he had, only to get himself farther from his intended goal. If only he had spit first!

What, still not getting it?

Okay, if you’re covered with snow, then there’s almost no way to tell which direction is which, but gravity still applies. So push some snow away from your face … and spit. If the spit falls directly away from you, then you’re facing down and you need to turn around. If the spit falls left or right, you’re sideways. This is maybe the only time you ever want to spit in your own face. Because if you do, you’re facing up, and in that situation, up is good.

When a man spits, he knows up from down. I’m sure somebody, somewhere, has said that at some point. Probably a crusty old mountain man. So when it’s over, when you’re safe at home in front of a warm fire, enjoying a mountain-man beverage, let that be a reminder to send me a thank-you note. Or a gift card. That’s up to you.

When Jesus came on the scene as a rabbi, there was a lot of directional confusion. Up seemed like down. People were trying to find the light, but they only dug themselves deeper. It was a time of confusion, much like today. And it was what the Bible calls “the fullness of time,” when Jesus came to set the compass once and for all.

When Jesus sets things in order, why does it sound as if he’s holding the map upside down? Need more evidence? Consider the third beatitude. Jesus says the way down is up and the way up is down.

God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth. (Matt. 5:5 NLT)

Kyle Idleman, The End of Me: Where Real Life in the Upside-down Ways of Jesus Begins (Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2015).

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