Just over a week ago, I left snowy Michigan for the even more snowy Colorado mountains. After investing in the warmest hat and gloves I could find (made of some new thermal technology that reflects your body heat back to you), and borrowing a pair of ski goggles, I signed up for my first ski lesson.
My ski instructor told me I was doing great on the bunny hill. So great, that I decided to skip the second half of the lessons in favor of a long lunch.
The next day, I confidently rode the ski lift up to the top of a “green” hill, looking forward to traversing down the mountain with ease. Ha!
My ski instructor had failed to tell me that the “green” hill was nothing like the bunny slope! It was much steeper, and infinitely longer. I seemed to have forgotten all I’d learned the day before. I crashed time, after time, after painful time. In fact, if you’d seen me—skis and poles flying every which way, kids hurrying out of my way, grown men shouting over their shoulder, “Are you okay?”—you would have laughed or cried ‘til you hurt.
Me . . . I was doing everything I could not to cry. The problem was I had to keep going—the bottom of the mountain was a long ways away. Thankfully, God provided an “angel” in the form of a friend who patiently skied and stopped along with me, offering tips and encouragement along the way. When he noticed that my arms and legs were shaking, he told me to hang onto his ski pole and he “plowed” behind me, slowing me down, leading me to the bottom of the mountain.
After I reached the lodge and cried some of those tears I’d been desperately holding back, I lowered my aching body into the outdoor hot tub and watched the other skiers and snowboarders come down the hill. That’s when I noticed it. Many children were coming down the mountain with a harness strapped around their body, with a parent behind them holding onto the harness.
At first glance, it looked restrictive. But after my recent experience on the mountain, I longed for just such a person to steer and control my wild, out-of-control descent down the mountain.
As I relaxed further, I then noticed that some ski instructors were skiing even closer to the beginner skiers. Rather than using a harness, the instructor just crossed his ski poles in front of the skier, holding her in his arms.
Which made me think of one of the verses we’re memorizing this month in Psalm 139: The writer says of God, “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it” (emphasis added).
So I guess I’m wondering, does the fact that God is hemming you in make you feel hampered, or protected? Does His nearness seem restrictive to you, or like the most welcome, safe place in the world?
I guess it just depends on how well you think you can “ski down the mountain of life.” This will determine whether you and I rest in His arms, or whether we fight Him all the way.
I, for one, recognize my need for His help. Especially after a weekend like the one I just had!
Lord, help us relax in your embrace, even when we don’t like the path—or the speed—you’re choosing for our ride through life. Help us stay near to You and learn from You. Hold us up; keep us from falling.