Thursday, March 31, 2011

A different kind of mountain top experience

Day 27
it's a down hill battle
and it's all up hill from here.

I know I’ve mentioned the time I spent working on the mountain as a ski and snowboard instructor. I thought you might be interested to know how exactly that happened. My high school was just a few miles from the mountain and lift tickets for locals were cheaper than a value meal at a fast food joint. The very first time I strapped into a snowboard I was with my best friend Jonathan. I had a brand new board my parents had given me as a Christmas present, some goggles I bummed off my buddy in lost and found, and a pretty killer jacket I nabbed from the thrift store where my Mom was the bookkeeper. Being skiers for a number of years, Jon and I opted out of taking snow boarding lessons and decided to wing it. To our credit we handled the bunny slope pretty well and after an hour or so we felt like it was time to step up our game and take it to the next level.

On skis I had made that Range View run a hundred times and could cruise the trail from top to bottom, full tuck, in under three minutes. On this particular day it took Jon and I just under two hours to make it down. I’d say two thirds of it we spent on our butts, backs, knees or with our face in the snow. I spent the next three days of my vacation in bed, too stiff to move. If not for the fact that I already owned the stupid snowboard I probably would have quit right then and there. Not only did I own the board, I begged for it, and there was no way my parents would let me turn back now. So I took lessons for six weeks from a long-haired hippie with dreads and purple sunglasses. By the end of the season I was a better rider than I ever was a skier. I still spent my fair share of time with my face in the snow but at least by then I was biting it on black diamonds instead of bunny trails.

I wish I could say that I started teaching out of some noble respect for lessons and how much they helped me. In a round about way that’s true. I fell in love with snowboarding and found out instructors not only got to ride for free but actually got paid to do it. I do accredit my love for teaching to that season of life. There was something exciting about spending every weekend with a class of 15 or 20 students who each came from different ethnic, age, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Finding a way to take the basic principles that were necessary and make them relatable to everyone in the group.

The first thing your supposed to teach your students is how to fall. There’s a right way and wrong way to do it. It may seem like your setting them up for failure but the truth is when learning something new like that, you are going to fall. If you don’t do it correctly you are going to get hurt. On the other hand, if you know how to fall, the damage is less impacting, you get up quicker, and you can continue the learning process.

I think in some ways this is how faith works. As believers we get so concerned with not falling, failing, or making mistakes that we never learn how to fall gracefully and get up quickly. The truth is all of us fall. James says, “we all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2) and Paul says, "We all fall short of the glory of God." So I think, for some of us, we are living in the tension between religion and faith. Religion looks over our shoulder and says, “Oh my God, what have I done”. Grace looks forward with faith, hope, and love and says, “Thy kingdom come they will be done”.

When I was teaching I was constantly telling my students, “Don’t look at the ground! Look where you want to go. Where your eyes are is where you will end up.” And it’s the same for us. Where our eyes are is where we end up. I think it’s good to acknowledge our faults, to be open about them, and to let the light cover them. Whether we are in faith's green circles or black diamonds there’s going to be something that gets us off our feet with our face in the powder.

As brothers and sisters our call is to help each-other up. To be empathetic, because we’ve been there too and probably will be there again. And to remind one another to keep our eyes up. Romans 12 16-18 and 21 16Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

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