To celebrate her birthday, my wife wanted to go skiing. That was not good news for this Georgia man! But last Saturday, we headed to a mountain in Vermont.
The slopes were icy and I am a novice, so we started slowly. After a couple of runs, I announced that I was ready for an intermediate slope. Famous last words! Carrie quickly got ahead of me. In a moment of folly, I looked for her, thus losing my concentration. All of a sudden, my pole smacked me in the face and one of my skis fell off. For a perilous second, I thought I might be able to stay erect. I was wrong.
When I was able to take stock of my situation, I was lying on the ground, one ski well below me and one ski about 8 or 10 feet above me. I was in a steep and icy spot. I tried to crawl up to the higher ski. After a couple of feet, I slid back. I tried again, and again I slid back. That happened maybe a dozen times. (I should perhaps add that I was directly under the gondola and so had an audience!) In the meantime, Carrie retrieved my other ski. But I didn’t know what to do about the one above me.
Thankfully, a kind skier stopped—not an easy thing to do in that spot!—and returned my ski to me. I slid with it on my rear down to Carrie. It took me an embarrassingly long time to put my skis back on. But eventually I was ready to resume progress towards the blissful relief of the lodge.
Now two days later, I mostly find the whole episode amusing. But I have reflected a little on that feeling of utter helplessness as I tried to climb up the slope just a few feet and simply could not do it. Rarely have I felt quite so incapable of doing what I needed to do. And, in retrospect, that was probably a good experience for me. Because, after all, that is what we say about our relationship with God.
We want to rise to God’s level, and we often try really hard. But the fact is, we can’t do it. Something always gets in the way. After a bit of progress, we find ourselves backsliding (although not usually so literally as I was doing!). Ultimately we have to wait until God extends a helping hand. That is what grace is all about. And thank God for it!!
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Fr. Harvey Hill
This blog is my occasional reflections on life, God, Christian faith, and the Church. I hope you find it helpful!