Lately, it’s been really, well, rough. The last couple of days have just been a battle…today was when I remembered that I’m in the middle of one.
Yesterday, while I was trying to fall asleep, Satan kept messing with me:
“Hunter, you believe that there is an invisible war going on around you between heavenly forces and the forces of evil, and that you’re part of this epic battle that no one can see. That’s a little whacko, don’t ya think? Also, did you ever think, considering how down and out you’ve been feeling lately, that maybe this whole God thing isn’t real? Just think about it.”
Unfortunately, I did.
I mulled it over quite thoroughly. For a while my thoughts circulated around the fact that I felt absolutely insane, that maybe all of this ‘stuff’ I believe in isn’t actually real and I really am insane. After a night of terrible dreams, I woke up feeling even more insane, so much that I almost didn’t go skiing today. But then, when I was just about to crawl back into bed, I remembered (though I honestly think it was a friendly reminder from the Knight in shining armor who’s the only one so far to rescue me every time) that it’s not about what I believe, but rather about what God says.
God’s word says, in Ephesians 6:12 says “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” The verse before that says “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” Also, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (ESV).
Wrestling, rulers, cosmic powers, darkness, forces of evil, schemes of the devil, armor, waging war, weapons of warfare, destroying stuff, being against stuff, taking stuff captive, yeah sounds like war to me. And what about every time in the Psalms and elsewhere in the Bible that describes God as being a fortress, a strong tower, a refuge? Spiritual warfare is everywhere in the Bible, and it is very real.
Another thing that tripped me up was trying to believe that God’s hope is enough based off of what I’m feeling. I know, now that I’ve thought about it I kind of want to kick me too. Again, not based off of feelings. The hope God gives us as His sons and daughters is not hope limited by our feelings, our emotions, or by anything for that matter. God’s hope is the only hope that is real, that can change people, that can really make people stronger in every way. Those who lean on this hope and remember it during times of battle come out on the other side being gentler, smarter, and wiser than before the fact, while those without it tend to put up walls and appear to be strong but are weak underneath their shell. The world sees strength as hiding your feelings and putting up your guard, but in reality this is the very weakness that dehumanizes us and keeps us from experiencing love, trust, and friendship. There is nothing like God-given hope. Without it…I can’t even imagine where I’d be.
When the thought of staying home crossed my mind again, I almost gave in, but the Holy Spirit pinched my brain, telling me I would regret it later. Wow! I didn’t know how right that statement was at the moment.
Talking to God, I packed my duffel, grabbed a bowl of donut seeds (Cheerios, but I call them donut seeds, because that’s what they are), and headed out the door. It was pouring rain and the ground was icier than I thought it would be. I hoped the trip wouldn’t be canceled.
The high school ski club (the family friend I spoke to is a chaperone/adviser for this club) plus one (that’s me :)) piled onto a big yellow bus that’s always reminded me of a Twinkie and began the hour drive to Toggenburg Winter Sports Center. On the way over, I listened to music and talked to God, imagining what it would be like to ski. I was mostly thinking of the Disney Channel movie, Johnny Tsunami. This guy, who’s grown up in Hawaii and surfed the waves nearly all his life, is suddenly moved to Vermont, where surf boards are replaced by snow boards and skis. In that movie, Johnny ends up becoming a snow boarder and is pretty darn good at it. I’m hoping, like Johnny, something in my life will automatically make me a great skier…maybe athletics, or skill, or coordination…never mind.
When we arrive at Toggenburg, it is, of course, almost the exact opposite of what I expected. It was drizzling and it was cold, and I was getting really nervous as I observed the more experienced skiers and boarders gliding down the monstrosity that was The Big Hill. All I could see was the snow flying up from underneath their ‘vehicles’ and the speed at which they were going.
We all piled into the Center and put on our gear. I went and got fitted for boots, skis, poles, and a helmet. Getting the boots on was the first major adventure of the day…yes, I typed adventure. They don’t allow your ankles to move…at all, and the clips wouldn’t clip so I felt like my ankles were the size of an elephants. I could feel my dignity depleting and I was holding onto one last bit until one of the ski people came over and adjusted the clip so it would fit. Facepalm.
The boots were awkward…okay, maybe that’s not the right description…you know those air casts given to people who have sprained an ankle or torn a ligament? Yeah, walking in ski boots kind of feels like walking in two air casts, like you’re some kind of robot. The skis were very skinny, much thinner and lankier than I had imagined. I had never even touched a pair of skis up until that point; in fact, I can’t even recall a time I was ever that close to a pair.
I roboted back to our area where all of our junk was and put on my jacket and gloves and such. The Holy Spirit, for some weird reason, led me to leave the sweatshirt meant to go underneath my wind jacket with my extra clothes. By the time I had on my snow pants, my jacket, my gloves, and my head band along with my boots and helmet, I was feeling a little warm. The two chaperones (both wonderful women I’ve known forever and that my family has known forever) helped me get to an instructor, that is, after helping me get into my skis. This took a little bit of effort, more effort than the boots. The first ski went on fine, but the second ski just wouldn’t cooperate. I kept trying to shove the toe of my boot into the front hold but it just wouldn’t go in and my other ski was sliding all over the place and it was just ridiculous…and hilarious 🙂
After getting my skis on, I was matched to an instructor. My instructor was a very kind elderly gentleman wearing a blue coat and no helmet, which made me wonder if I would really need mine. Well, there’s this thing called The Bunny Hill. My instructor had me practice moving around in my skis on flat ground before taking me up the hill. He asked me if I had ever skied and I said no. He was surprised because it seemed like I had. Turns out, being an athlete, rollerskating, rollerblading, and ice-skating before skiing really help you get the hang of things quicker. I decided not to tell him about my lack of coordination.
Eventually, after learning to walk in a matter of minutes and learning to stop even quicker, I was ready to start turning. The first time I tried to turn, I fell. Flat. On my bottom. I also did this when I first got on the pull lift (a metal wire that, when you grabbed onto it, pulled you up the small hill so long as you hold on), except I fell on my face…twice. Alas! I got back up 🙂 that’s what most of the day was: falling down and getting back up again. I guess that’s how a relationship with God is, except it’s not so much your getting back up, but rather trusting God to be able to pick you up and set you back on your feet.
At 11:00am, my instructor left me. By this time I was fine. I was going up the lift one-handed, simultaneously holding onto my poles with the other hand; I was going to the top of The Bunny Hill and going down just fine, without falling. Then, when I was heading back to the Center building for a break, I passed The Big Hill. As I gazed at it, I thought, “Wow, that’s really terrifying…maybe I should just stay on The Bunny Hill today.”
Thinking this meant, of course, that there were no breaks for me: I was going on The Big Hill.
Now, I realize how stupid this might seem…NOW I do, but I didn’t at the time.
I skied up to where we sat on the seats (which reminded me of a ride at Water Safari) and felt okay, but when I went to sit down, I lost one of my poles. There was no way I could reach it, since I was very VERY high up from the ground and moving uphill rather quickly. I turned around in my seat (after realizing I had to put down a safety bar so as to not fall out and die) to see my instructor sitting behind me with another instructor, holding my pole. I felt so embarrassed! I didn’t want him to think I was being arrogant or haughty, and I didn’t want him to think I was following him. Eventually I decided not to worry about it, mostly because I wasn’t trying to do either of those things.
About ten minutes later, when I skied down a small hill off the lift, I realized the idiocy I had gotten myself into. The hill was long and icy; a fog had settled, and I was afraid. I did not, however, back down from going down the hill. The woman who my instructor had been sitting with, stayed with me the entire way down. Turns out she’s one of the best instructors at the Center. The first time I tried going down, I picked up too much speed and fell hard on my hip, sliding along my stomach about ten to twenty feet until I could bring my skis around and dig them into the packed snow. Getting up was probably the hardest thing of all. I didn’t mind falling so much; I just minded being in people’s way, considering I was so inexperienced and everyone else was so…ya know.
Eventually, after several tries to turn, several falls, and several sliding-out-of-controls, it began to pour down. I had just fallen again when a freezing rain began to pelt my helmet. It was as if God was trying to say, “Well, if you’re going to take on a challenge, you might as well take it all on in one shot.” Thank You.
I pulled myself back up and kept going. Pretty soon I was doing just fine, and I was making turns like no problem with very few falls. I was half way down the hill and could finally see the Center building. After five amazing turns, I quickly turned to the left to be greeted by a fifteen foot long span of clear ice; no snow softened its surface. All I could think of was driving. Whenever I’m driving and I see ice, I panic and avoid going directly over it with my tires. So that’s what I did with my skis. Before I could hit the ice, I did a controlled fall onto my thigh and skidded across, digging the edges of my skis into the powdery snow on the other side.
I went down the rest of the hill without falling, without messing up, without panicking. My instructor told me I was very good for a beginner, and she told me I have great balance. I tried not to laugh. Of course, I couldn’t manage letting her compliments go to my head because I had just tripped over my own boot before even putting my skis on. But the encouragement was much needed 🙂
My day of skiing finally ended when my ankles began to sting and burn from my layers rubbing against them for so long. Also, everything I was wearing was soaked through and through. I returned my skis, boots, poles, and helmet, changing into warm, dry clothes and eating donut seeds while drinking water. As I changed, I was so thankful that I had left my sweatshirt behind, because if I hadn’t, then I would have no dry jacket to wear outside and back home 🙂
When I returned home, the exhaustion of skiing really caught up with me, and the chill of the day touched my bones. A mug of hot chocolate and a legitimate lunch was in order. Mom and I had a great discussion about God, about life, about everything. It was very refreshing. God has given me so much in her, and so much in general. I have so much more than I can comprehend. Sometimes I wonder why God gives me wonderful things when I can be such a bratty daughter to Him, when I can be such a drama queen, when I can be such a terrible stranger. And then I remember it’s because He’s loves me, and that He’s a master at letting me fall on my face when I want to, when I walk right into a bad place, and then picking up the pieces when I crawl back to Him, begging for Him to take me back.
And the crazy thing is that He always does. God is always willing to turn me around back to where He is, even though I’ve moved away without realizing it. I’m so glad He brings me back around to Him, to where His hope is, to where I can get through everything with a smile on my face, because even though things aren’t always fantastic, He loves me, He sustains me, He gives me hope.
He’s got it 🙂