“For You have armed me with strength for the battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.” -Psalm 18:39
Standing facing the biting cold, as ice pellets from the snow guns burn the flesh on my skin, I wait for the next person in line to come to me. My job; to check the lift ticket for an expiration time and date. My toes are so cold that the feeling has left them, now a numbness matches those of my fingers. “There must be a purpose for my being here,” comes the thought. “Why must I suffer so?” My mind drifts back to another time of struggle, another time of physical hardship.
The dark water swirls around him as he fights to remain afloat. The tiny frame of a boy’s body barely has enough flesh to cover his bones, let alone any fat to help keep him afloat. Tirelessly he battles the fluid that tries to pull him under while struggling to keep his chin above the surface. His thin arms barely have enough strength to continue, but the merit badge requires a full 30 minutes to tread water; so he battles on. He thinks of what he must do in order to succeed. He cannot fail, for failure is not an option in his young mind. From the edge of the dock, the lifeguard yells at him to keep kicking, “Use your cross stroke…don’t give up.” The voice sounds distant, as if in another world. His breath labors as a numbness begins to drift from his mind to his legs. The void below he no longer fears as a certain calmness flows across his consciousness. Above him, the blue sky seems endless as if there is no end to its height. In his last moments he feels his body drifting toward the eternal blueness beyond; then nothing except the gentle hands of those raising his nearly lifeless body from the void. He had made the time, but his tiny frame was nearly spent. He breathed in the air and faced the sky above as he lay on the dock listening to the waves rippling against the wood. Calmness overwhelmed him as peace enveloped his being; God was there.
The mind drifts onward; another place another time. Sweat trickles down his spine, tickling as it runs the length of his body. The heat creates wavering ripples of vision across the tarmac before him. He stands at parade rest along with the rest of his squadron. Attired in their dress blues, their presence underneath the blistering Texas sky is all the more picture perfect. No one can move a muscle lest they face infractions for the inspection. Today is the General’s Parade, the last of their training at the San Antonio facility where the Basic Training for Flight 61 has taken place over the last six weeks.
The young Airmen doesn’t flinch as gnats crawl in and out of his nose, stinging his eyes as they crawl about every orifice mercilessly. He pushes the feeling from his mind, welcoming the return of the numbness experienced once before in his life, a feeling of calmness when darkness whispers into one’s ear. He again begs the question, “Why am I here, and what is my purpose.” There is no response. There is no breeze. The breath of the asphalt overwhelms even the faintest hint of cool as the mind races to find something with which to grasp onto. A hope, a prayer, anything to relinquish it from the here and now. The conscious mind searches the depths of the soul for memories upon which to dwell. Fighting through the suffocating air, labored breath comes. He tries to focus, but blurred eyes find little comfort. “Lord take me away from here, give me relief, show me the way,” he whispers under his breath. His leg nearly buckles as he recalls the instructions not to lock your knees. He hesitantly, but carefully shakes it off. Two rows over another airman falls backward, passed out before he hit the pavement. The thud of his body hitting the ground leaves an eerie sound etched into their collective memories. Across the parade grounds, onlookers peered through veiled eyes as they searched for their loved ones, hoping the fallen were not theirs. A wisp of a breeze gently caresses the flag near the crowd, too far away for relief. Too far away to be felt. Comfort. Too far away; too far…away. “God will surely give me comfort.”
The images fade as the wind picks up.
The snow swirls around like sheets on a clothesline blowing in the wind on a summer’s day. One by one, through the whiteness they come, shuffling their skis as the inch toward the gate. I check them through blurred eyes; blurred not from sweat, but rather, from cold and blinding snow. There is a purpose in my being here. “He would not have it, if it were not so,” I tell myself. “In His time, it will become evident.”
Little did I know, it had already begun.
When we begin our walk with Christ, our journey can lead us anywhere at anytime. We have a purpose in life wherever we go once the journey begins.
And so it is.
Although I might never have envisioned myself working at a Ski Slope part-time, I have found that in everything we do, there is purpose when we serve a living God. There is so much more to tell, but all in due time.
All in due time.
Thanks be to God.
You can learn more about God’s plan for my journey at Mission to Ride.