Many things flood to mind when you’re lying face down on a table while the masseuse runs her elbow down the length of your spine, trying to kneed out the knots that have found their way into your muscles. Mostly what I am thinking of is how much these hurt, mixed with a weird bliss of the memory of how I got these bruises. The build up of lactate in my muscles floods back the memory of pain and joy, co-existing within my body. The memory, a two day adventure of snowboarding up in the high country, has left me a little battered and sore, to say the least. Snowboarding holds so many analogies of life, faith and perseverance, which is why I’ve chosen it to be the centre piece of this months writing. It is a wonderful sport, driven by an adrenaline gail as you ride, fall, ride, crash, olly, jump, 360, and fall down a mountain side with a board you’ve strapped your feet to.
It is the perfect picture of getting up when you fall – 1, because you can’t very well pout on the mountain side all afternoon – you’ll eventaully have to get down to the bottom to go home, and 2, because you learn to get up, push through the pain, and worry about how much it is going to hurt later, because there is so much to enjoy now. Thank goodness I wore a helmet on the day, ’cause my head hit the ground of water and ice enough times to give me a concussion Will Smith would be proud of!
And right now, the words for this piece come to me, as I lie in a dark room and a stranger tries again to kneed out my back. I am embarrassed by the sound of my back muscles releasing their tension; how did I get so sore? Running on adrenaline, sliding my way down the mountain, with Gnarles Barkley booming in my ear, I barely notice the pain of my head, wrists and face being repetitively slammed into the ground. It is not until later, examining the bruise on my right knee that I try desperately to remember the exact moment that I fell and caused it. Nope, can’t remember.
Like life, I can only remember the best bits. Sure I remember falling, and I remember it hurting, but the crying out of the painful moments are easily drowned by the cheering of the joyful ones. I remember the moment I finally got the ‘S-Turn’ and made it down a run without falling. Or the jump I landed, or the rail I grinded across (Yes that happened once, yes I felt like a boss, no it never happened again). Then, at the end of the day, tired, out of breath and cold, you’ve lost track of the fact you’ve been exercising for a solid 320 minutes. Now a day later, and it hurts to roll over in bed. I don’t want to do it again for a little while, but then when my legs no longer burn with acid, and my face resembles less than a tomato, I will want to get back on that mountain and do it all again.
If we shy away from things that might hurt us because they have in the past, or we think that they will before we’ve even tried, then we will go through life living not as children of the light, but hidden in fear.
It is so much fun. Yes you do it mostly on its own, yes you feel like a fool so many times, yes that 5 year old IS better than you and yes you aren’t able to walk for a few days afterward, but that’s not even the best of it. I have found so much joy in the general beauty of it too.
On a clear day, the sheer enormity of the mountains around you that you can see for miles as you slide down high above the valley. The freedom of falling like you’re flying. Then, the reminder of the kindness of who God is as you continually get up after you’ve fallen short and trying again. Mix that with feelings of achievement when you reach the red markers at the bottom, alive and in one piece. I love that you’re at your bravest. You jump right into it, ready to advance to the jumps and rails because you can, you’re wearing a helmet anyway and even if you fall, you’ve done that so many times already, what difference will it make? THOSE are the moments that will drive me to return to the mountain. In life, if we try to perfect the first run, we will leave disappointed, depressed and insecure as we feed lies about not being good enough. We are supposed to make mistakes, fall short and not be strong enough, in order that our partnership with Jesus Christ might be made complete.
The writer of Romans makes this clear: Romans 3:23 “For ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
The truth is that we are enough, because God who is the creator of all things, says so. If we fail to persevere, get up and move past our pain, failures, embarrassment, bruises, we will sit on the mountain side and watch our lives pass us by. Jesus did not come and die and rise again so that we might sit and be spectators.
NOW is the time to take risks, to challenge ourselves, and go for that rail or jump. When we move outside our comfort zone, we begin to stretch the boundaries of who we are. Never settle for second best, or be content with 2nd place. Run with perseverance the race already marked out, run and not grow weary, and then run some more. Everyone is capable of more than they are now, and in those moment of failure and falling, you grow, God grows in your life and your capacity for others stretches.
So while I lie back now, with my cup of tea, rested, refreshed, reflective and stretched, remember this:
You are far more capable than you realise. And as C.S.Lewis puts it:
“There are far, far better things ahead, than any we leave behind.”
So listen to the lessons from the snowboard: Be Brave, Keep Going, Keep Giving, Keep Jumping, Soldier On and Press On.
Courage, Conquer, Overcome.
– K xx