It occurred to me this past weekend as I watched my children repeatedly ski down the mountain how much we try to intentionally incorporate the unknown into our lives of normalcy. We purposely pay others to allow us to throw ourselves into chaotic circumstances from whence we knowingly might emerge unharmed; yet possibly not, thus the thrill.
Sitting in the ski lodge watching people come and go, it soon became apparent as the day wore on, that the flushed haggard faces were from people who had taken risks, forced themselves into the momentary windswept thrill of racing headlong down a mountain, all for the sake of fun; nothing more. There was no reason for their plight, nothing gained, only the momentary pleasure that the rush of adrenaline created. Had it been another place and time, the faces could have easily been of those victims of the many global conflicts, who might have barely escaped being captured by enemy combatants in a war torn region of the world. Or, they could have been people who narrowly escaped death from the onrushing Tsunami that engulfed their home, now running for their lives to higher ground. Or, they could have been people fleeing for their lives from wild fires that had engulfed entire communities this past summer in one of the worst wildfire summers in recent history.
But no, these were weekend warriors; folks who were simply out for the fun of that feeling of whisking along with nothing between you and danger other than your ability to remain upright and the skill it takes to maneuver through a myriad of skiers and collective snowboarders scattered down the mountainside.
I know, I’ve been there too.
Yes, I have to confess; last year I tried my hand at skiing for the first time ever. Up until the point the slopes became too icy for safety’s sake, I was actually having fun tempting fate. I was there to escort my children, who were pretty much escorting me by the end of the night; it was their first time too. However, late into the night with the progressively worsening conditions, I decided to take one last shot down the double black diamond called the “Orchard Run” I realized my luck could have easily run out.
The slopes that night had become increasingly icy and with time, had become more and more difficult to stop. In fact, even the easier slopes were becoming so “fast” that you had to snowplow (turning both toes inward in order to stop your progress downhill) all the way down just to maintain a manageable speed. For some reason, my son and I decided, even with the knowledge of the ice, that we would try one of the most difficult runs at the ski resort we were visiting. We had already successfully made it down this run before, but now unbeknownst to us, it was nothing but a pure sheet of ice. Regardless, we were there to tempt fate, and so we took off from the ski lift with the anticipation of one more adventure; one last run.
The initial section was pretty much as it had been before. My son took a slight spill just after leaving the ski lift, which should have been a sign. Still, we continued on. It was not far from there on the first curve heading down the mountain that I realized I was already going too fast. It was one of those times when you think to yourself, “Now what was I thinking?” It quickly became quite obvious, this was a mistake. As all attempts to halt the increasing speed became apparent, I felt my legs doing everything they could to maintain control and not buckle under the increased force that the speed of flight was creating. The moment I became airborne off of one of the little jumps that I had managed to miss the first time, but due to the increased speed, could not this time, I knew the end was near. As my body prepared for impact, I knew that nothing good was going to come of this. I tried to imagine the pain I would encounter as bone, tendon and muscle became ripped apart from the fateful impact that was about to take place. The first thing that hit was my face, as the rest of my body quickly followed. It was a blinding tumultuous crash that ensued as gravity, speed and ice all combined to continue my unmanned flight down the mountainside, at nearly the same speed I had managed to obtain at the peak of my airborne flight. Seconds later, I lay in a motionless pile of snow, ice and anticipation. I hesitantly began feeling for that first impulse of pain that would lead to the trip to the emergency room; nothing came. I felt my face where I took the initial impact, no blood? As I slowly took inventory as I regained my senses, it became apparent, I had been spared.
I slowly got to my feet and regained my footing, repositioned my helmet and goggles, and with as much dignity as I could manage, headed down the remainder of the slope. My ski trip had just officially ended, and I was thankful to be able to walk away, in one piece. I met up with my son at the bottom of the slope shortly afterward. He made it safely down without incident but was concerned for my well being. He was relieved to see me again, as I was him; both of us none the worse for wear.
As I reflect back on that uneventful plight, I realized that the risk I took was not the kind of enjoyment in life I really wanted. There was no gain, no measure of significant advancement that might cause lasting joy or memory other than knowing I had survived something which wasn’t necessary to survive to start with.
I know what it is to have fun, but then again, I know what it is to take foolish chances.
Yet, every day somewhere in the world, someone is performing mission work or preaching the Word where it is forbidden, taking chances to go places to serve others all in the name of God our Father. For these risks, one can be justified in knowing that, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” – 1 John 4:4 Perhaps, as weekend warriors, we also prepare the path for the day we are called to do greater works, so that we will fear less because of what we have already faced on our own.
I think with age, we come to realize what is more important in life. The fun things become more spiritual in nature, living the thrills to our youth. The old adage, “You’re only as young as you feel,” should have an appendage attached from wisdom that says, “As long as you’ve got feeling left in your body.” No need to risk losing mobility when there is much more life to live.
I believe from now on I’ll take the slow lane; just the ski lift please…nothing more.