Not that ice skating is an everyday event for me. I am SoCal born and bred, so skateboards and rollerskates are much more my style. It was no surprise that I did not last the entire two hours completely upright.
My five year old daughter has only been on skates of any sort several times. She was excited to get her skates and get out on the ice. But then she froze into a locked leg and body position that meant she only “skated” if somebody held her upright and pushed her.
I fear teaching children to skate. My mother once had a nasty accident when my little brother’s skate locked with hers and he fell in front of her. As she tripped over him, she dislocated her shoulder and then broke it. I never want to experience anything like that. Ice is so slick and unforgiving. I wanted Pips skating by herself as soon as possible. I showed her how to walk and get her balance, then left her on the wall.
What a crummy Mom.
So many of us are so gripped by our fears that, until we are forced to walk alone, we’ll never do it. Oh, the memory that pops up here! Squantz Pond, Connecticut, 1983. My cousins and friends were going swimming, and it was a lovely day at a picturesque watering hole. Then Andy said that we really needed to go jump off The Rock. To this day, Andy is the headstrong leader, ever going where angels fear to tread. He is either immortal, or God has a plan for him. We knew that as long as he went before us and didn’t die, we could be reasonably assured of our success.
That was the highest ledge I’ve ever jumped off. The problem, though, was its slope. You couldn’t see the end of the rock or your landing zone from the launch point. I wasn’t sure I could clear the edge with only three steps of lead in. I did, of course, or I wouldn’t be writing today – but everybody laughed at my contortions and panicked face in the meanwhile. (I remember the rock looking a lot more jagged than in the video. The area is now closed because of deaths to city slickers like me.)
I risked paralysis and drowning on the assurance that I’d make it home alive by some people I’d known less than 3 months. Now that I’ve known Andy 25 years, I’d tell him to go ahead.
How ludicrous it is that, like a lemming, I will follow teens over a cliff and doubt the Creator of the Universe. What, honestly, do I risk in following Him? I’m already in danger or I wouldn’t fear.
What is it, really, that I fear? My daughter has dreams of becoming the Ice Castles girl. If she goes into the middle of the rink, skates her heart out for two hours and comes home bruised and sore, is she disappointed? Not at all. In her mind, she was the star of the show. Yet – I find my typing slowing dramatically here – if I go into the world, do my best at what I do and come home with the satisfaction of a day well spent, why am I disappointed? Because what I truly wanted was for God to give me my dreams.
God is not Santa Claus. He’s not here to fulfill my wish list because I was a good girl. And that’s where the feel-good of religion leaves the dedication of Christian faith. It’s not about me and what a good person I am. I’m here to do what He asks to fulfill a greater mission than I can see. I just need to let go my fears of failure and humiliation and trust that God will carry me over the deaths of my own dreams to a success I can’t fathom.
Just like my daughter on ice, I want someone strong to escort me safely off my rock, with powerful legs propelling me well beyond that fearsome ledge and ensuring a successful splash among the submerged dangers below. But isn’t it so like God that He makes us face our fears alone.
It’d be a lot easier if He weren’t invisible.
I left my daughter on the ice rink wall. It will hold her as long as she chooses to use it. But then she – and I – must step out in faith alone. Faith doesn’t belong to me if all I do is let the preacher tell me what I believe and rest on his strength. No pastor will carry me into heaven. Mommy’s faith will not, either. Just as it isn’t a particular technique or skate brand that makes me a good skater, it’s what’s inside: my center of gravity and how I handle it. I must delve through the Bible myself, let God talk to me, and find my personal weak spots and strengths.
My pastor walks before me; I can see him, even if I cannot see yet the God he follows. As I read the same Book he reads, I stop needing to see his walk. The words must guide me just as they guide him. The fact that he’s ahead of me keeps me on track, but over time I don’t need his hand to hold me up. I begin to hold the same Hand he does. He still has more experience there, so I continue to look to him for counsel. As Pips will someday not need me to steady her, but she will always look to me for my perspective and advice.
I just don’t do alone well. I fear alone. And yet, that’s what following Jesus means. I must go His way, loving and caring for those around me when they don’t see or understand what I’m doing. Even if they laugh at me. And that becomes very lonely. I’ve noticed that some of my dearest friends are deeply alone and facing huge challenges right now. There’s nothing I can do to help them. I’m tottering on my own little blade on slippery ice. Yet somewhere, outside the camp of our comfort zones, I am told we will find love, strength, and peace greater than anything we’ve ever known, together. Only when I completely trust that to be the case and leave everything I know for certain behind, will I find it.
That is a big leap, with monumental crash written all over it. I can’t do it with my eyes closed, or I will miss my steps. I must fully experience every scary moment. And God will get all the glory because He’s the only one who stayed with me, held my hand, and directed my path.