Some days I desperately need to look back on the landscape of my life and remember the lesson I learned the first day I tried cross-country skiing.
I'll never forget it. I was ten years old and excited to go on this field trip with my fifth grade classmates. The best part was my Dad came with me. I loved it when I had my Dad to myself for the day as it was a rare occurrence with five other siblings. I never could have imagined how I might have needed him that day. Perhaps my parents decided that he would come for they knew how limited I would be in such a sport, but they never told me I couldn't do it.
We strapped skis on our feet and strung poles on our wrists. We poked those poles into the white ground and our skis made strides in fresh snow. With the rest of the class, we followed marks on skeleton trees in the woods. I remember how difficult it was for me to coordinate my left and right motion. When it came to the dreaded downhill parts, I found my limbs all entangled in skis and poles and tumbled down most of the way.
I was giving it an honest effort, but as we wound ourselves deeper into the bush, we were left far behind from the rest of the skiers. It was just my Dad and me finding our way through the forest. About the time this escapade on trails in the winter wonderland became more like a trial to test one's endurance when there's no blessed end in sight, blisters burst open and my feet began to throb. It was cold and I was worn out from trying to learn a new skill, weary from so many falls, discouraged that I was so far behind from all my classmates, and distressed from pain that was very real.
I wanted to give up. My Dad encouraged me to press on.
I groped along with unsteady strides for a wee while longer, but in the end you know what he did?
When I could go no longer on my own, he picked me up and skied with me on his shoulders. Now, granted, I was a petite ten year old, but I was still at least 60 pounds. Plus, my skis were still attached to my feet and tucked under his armpits.
Yeah, that's what my Dad did. He picked up sixtyish pounds, skis, poles and carried me on his shoulders and propelled both of us forward.
Some times I look back and think I should never have given up. I should have endured to the end. I shake my finger in my own face and rebuke myself: why did I give up so easily?
But, the reality is, I was living with a significant disadvantage with only one functioning lung and that kind of exercise is a cardiovascular challenge even for the fittest. I had recovered from a two year fight against cancer five years earlier, but was dealing with side effects that made some things in life difficult.
Cross-country skiing proved to be one of those things that would be a challenge for a childhood cancer survivor living with half her lung capacity.
None of my classmates ever knew that I was carried on my father's shoulders. My Dad put my feet on the ground as that glorious chalet came into view and I skied the final stretch with him by my side.
I look back to that day as one on which I learned a very real limitation, as well as this vital life lesson: I was never alone.
There will be trials. They will distress us. But the One who goes before us, carries us as a father carries his child when life winds through the wild woods and your strength is dried up and you simply can't go on.
Sometimes the demanding trails we journey in life lead to difficult trials and we are desperate for a way out of the woods.
Hold on to this hope when you're weary from falling down so many times,
Rest in His strength when you are discouraged that you seem to be so far behind from so many others who are making a real difference in the world.
Cling to His tender care when the pain in this life is very real.
Embrace His steadfast love when your heart is distressed and full of sorrow.
What does the Father of Heavenly Lights do when life is more than we can handle?
He picks up and carries His children to the place of refuge.
He lovingly leads His children home.
"And you saw how the LORD your God cared for you
all along the way as you traveled through the wilderness,
just as a father cares for his child.
Now he has brought you to this place."
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