Skiing has been on my mind a great deal this week. For some reason my mind has been flooded with memories of a skiing trip I took as a very keen 15 old year old to Queenstown, New Zealand. I might add it was the only one in my life given that I discovered that skiing was not my thing. Looking back on it however, I have realised that I learned a great deal on that trip.
My friend and I took skiing lessons and I dutifully followed this German skiing instructor onto the snow feeling very excited and nervous. I tried so hard to apply his instructions but my nervousness did not make a good listener of me.
We began with the “poma lift” which was a disk or seat attached to a bar which in turn was attached to a pulley to take the skier up the mountain. (See the picture and no that is not me lol but it looks round the right era.) The instructor was at pains to tell us NOT to sit on the disk but merely to place it between our legs, hold onto the pole with one hand and let it take us up. At the same time he instructed us to get off the lift two major poles up the mountain. Do you know it was just instinct each time I put that disk between my legs to sit on it, with the result that it threw me off every time. I did this not once, not twice but about a dozen times before I was able to train my head to not sit on it and I proudly went off on my skis up the hill, holding onto that bar for dear life.
I had been so worried about getting the lift right that I forgot where to get off and as we climbed higher I began to panic about going too far. Sure enough, after one and half poles up the hill I decided it was time to get off and headed off-straight down this very, very steep slope and onto the rocks below. How I didn’t kill myself I actually don’t know. The instructor, by this time very frustrated with me, yelled as he went past, “I told you to go 2 poles up!!!!!” The entire class skied down to me so that they were able to get me off the rocks. I was too relieved to be embarrassed but that moment was still coming!
Trying to concentrate really hard on the instructions this time, I heard the instructor tell us that if we kept our skis straight ahead then we would pick up speed. “Get the feeling of the speed of the skis” he encouraged us. I once again concentrated really hard on what he was saying and applied it very literally. I kept those skis straight ahead and down that slope I went, picking up speed very rapidly. I felt like I was flying! Suddenly I realised that I had not heard the instructions on how to slow down, let alone to stop. I guess I was philosophical about it because I just kept going until finally I skied right into a very large bank of snow from which the class members had to lift me out with my skis in the air and my head in the snow.
Needless to say I left one VERY exasperated German instructor on that mountain. I sometimes giggle now when I think about how bad I was but there were some clear lessons in my head at the same time. Firstly, instinct is not all it is cracked up to be. Sometimes we need to make a huge effort to overcome what our bodies are telling us to achieve our ends. In spiritual terms I see this as the mastery of the spirit over the flesh.
Secondly, I learned not to give up. After the first 5 or 6 times on that poma it would have been easy to just go back down the mountain. My desire to go up that mountain kept me going. My goal to arrive in front of my Heavenly Father having completed all of those tasks He has asked of me keeps me trying, and trying again knowing that I will get it right one day.
Panic or impatience usually leads us to make our own decisions and not follow the directions of the instructor and will lead us onto the rocks below. When the Lord gives me instructions then I hope I have learned to be obedient, even when they are not easy or not logical. At the same time I learned the importance of following ALL the instructions and not just part of them. In the gospel there are some commandments and some instructions that are easier to follow than others. But I am very clear that the Lord expects me to work on all of them or a rescue mission might be needed. Of course I make more mistakes than I care to admit and so I am grateful for the patient instructor in Christ who comes and lifts me off the rocks when I make a wrong turn.
The incident of low-flying on my skis told me that when I do follow instructions I follow them with all my heart, holding nothing of myself back. I have many weaknesses but this is one characteristic about myself that I like and I don’t want to change it. I see my move to France very much like my brief, exhilarating ski at full speed, not knowing how to stop. Although it may be foolhardy not knowing how these adventures will end, I do know that the Lord himself has instructed me to give it my all and to feel the excitement of his spirit as I travel on this voyage. He knows my character which is much the same as that 15yr old. I have 100% faith in him as my instructor. Even if /when I fall, I know that He will be there to dig me out. I found this quote recently which tells it all. I have taken the leap and I am building my wings on the way down. No better way to go.