I am by no means an expert skier (I think the term my husband uses for our whole family is novice to novice +), but we love getting out on the slopes. We’ve only been a few times and because of the big-ness of everything involved -- huge mountain, skis almost as tall as the person wearing them, giant lifts -- I expected the whole thing to be big. But it’s not. As far as I can tell, the basis of the entire sport is actually much smaller than you would think. A substantial part of the ride is based on subtle, sometimes even minuscule movements. Just little changes of position in different parts of your body will direct you exactly where you want to go -- or you can end up eating snow.
It’s the same way in our faith walk, isn’t it? When we think of getting to the goal or reaching certain stops along the way, we think big. We assume big movements will get us where we need to be. Forget subtle, this is time for large and noticeable. Let’s do the big stuff -- we serve a big God, it’s time to be larger than life, the Great Commission is just that, Great, so let’s do it! But in my experience, victories in our faith walk are accomplished more often by subtleties than they are by giant gestures.
One of our sons is a natural skier. I’m not really sure how that happened. It seems especially tragic that we live in one of the hottest parts of Texas, not prone to snow, without a mountain in sight, but he’s fantastic nonetheless. From the first time he clicked his boots in skis as a six year old, he was off. He could turn, move, jump, and even stop with the grace of a snow leopard in his natural habitat. I’m definitely not the pro I once daydreamed of being, but from the times I have had success down the mountain, I can tell you his secret. It’s the minute movements I mentioned. We tend to naturally and unnecessarily exaggerate our motions. I get it. We’re afraid of falling so we put our whole effort into it, thinking the bigger we maneuver, the greater our chance of success. But the irony is, the bigger the movements, in most cases, the bigger the chance of a wipeout.
The Psalms, for example, are full of instructions to let God guide each individual stride, one by one. Jesus tells His followers that a small amount of faith is all that’s needed for big things to happen (not necessarily big works). Think of all the stories in the Bible where hearing God and responding with some seemingly insignificant act of obedience led to a huge outcome: the children of Israel marching around Jericho when they took the Promised Land, the little boy who handed his lunch over to Jesus, Esther holding a dinner party, Ruth gathering wheat for dinner. Even Elijah who had just made great big movements found God again not in the fire or in the whirlwind, but in the whisper.
Jesus tells us to come into this whole faith in Him thing like a child. I picture my son on skis. No fear. Not looking toward the dangers with trepidation, but focusing on Him and feeling our way through. Think about when you first came to Jesus. For so many of us, we could feel the pull of the Spirit, but He used His “inside voice.” He didn’t have to yell to get our attention. It was His still, small voice that drew us to Him. Miraculously, we heard Him and responded. Sometimes it happens though, that after the initial move, we feel stuck. And sometimes scared. It’s all super brand-new and we become unsure of ourselves. When the exhilaration of our salvation moment is over, all of a sudden, we can feel uncertain on the mountain terrain in the vastness of our new environment. It’s all so beautiful, and all so foreign at the same time.
But I would argue God no quieter now than He was at the beginning, it’s just that when we’re in a new environment and everything looks different we start to focus on what’s going on around us, rather than what He’s doing inside. We see the mountain, feel the cold air, and forget we have Him to guide us stride by stride. Jesus said it Himself, we have a Helper in Him. A Guide.
“I tell you the truth. It is better for you that I go away. If I do not go, the Helper will not come to you. If I go, I will send Him to you,” (John 16:7, NIV)
The Holy Spirit, the Helper, is the One who introduced us to the Jesus in the first place. He brought us to faith and He certainly won’t leave us alone to figure the rest out by ourselves. We just need to concentrate on noticing the small whisper and, most of the time, responding with equally gentle motions. Move left, slight right, turn just so, easy to the bottom. Fall down? No problem. Wipe out? No big deal. Just get up and try again. And again, and again.