Yaaaahhhhh! — my feet fly out from under you on an icy trail. You know what’s coming next…a moment of hang time like the coyote in the roadrunner cartoons then “OWWW!”…as my body slams onto the icy surface. (pause, wait for it) “Dang” escapes calmly but breathlessly from my lips.
So, I just lay there for a second or is it a minute to catch my breath and do a quick check for injuries. From nearby I hear, “Are you OKAY?” Clearly from their tone and emphasis they saw the fall and suspect I’m dead.
So I say what we all say instinctively, “I’m fine” with an attempt at a reassuring tone despite gasping for air. Not actually sure I’m fine yet, but I’ve been trained not to make a big thing out of a fall, trip, slip or bump. Next thing you know I’ll say I’m sorry. Been trained for that too.
Sorry for what you might wonder?
Oh, I don’t know, maybe that they had to watch me fall or that they were delayed from their walk in the park by inquiring after my well-being? I don’t know. I’m Canadian. We apologize. Sorry, we just do.
I can feel pain in my left arm, but not a break I’m pretty sure. All seems to move well. Probably just a nasty bruise. Head seems to be okay. (did I hit it, do I have a concussion? I don’t know, does anyone ever know?) Or at least as good as it was before. So I guess I can’t complain.
And I gamely raise myself up, laugh to show I’m really fine and wave as I leave my concerned spectators behind. A mother and daughter I think. Probably mom will use me as a teachable moment for her daughter about being safe in an icy park as I leave. We, parents need to make the most of our moments with our kids.
I walk as normally as possible toward the parking lot. In the NHL, they’d be banging hockey sticks on the side of the rink to encourage and salute me for being game after being taken down by an opposing player. Here I just slink carefully off the icy patch and head for my car.
And that’s pretty much an annual occurrence for me. At least once, sometimes a couple of times I hit the icy ground. Very normal for a lot of us really. That’s why we do the ‘Canadian shuffle’. You know when you’re on ice and don’t want to fall (who does?). You shuffle your feet instead of walking with confidence. Your feet barely leave the ice as you try to keep your balance.
As far as prayer practices go, this adventure reminds me of a seldom mentioned spiritual practice. It’s powerful and strongly biblical despite being seldom mentioned as a practical way to draw close to God.
Obedience isn’t something you hear preached about a lot. I think we don’t like to be told what to do and so we hesitate to talk about it for others.
Chapters aren’t written in devotionals or tomes on spiritual disciplines about obedience. But the Bible is very clear that obedience is a guaranteed way to draw near to God. He guides us, He supports us and He is with us in our obedience. That’s what we want in our devotions and spiritual practices!
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1:1-3 NLT
When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. John 10:15 NLT
He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary.They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:29-31 NLT
Disobedience is like attempting to walk an icy path. We might get away with it but ultimately we will fall. In disobedience, we come crashing down unable to keep our balance or choose the best path. We’ve taken a chance on our own wisdom and direction and it fails. Again. We are following the wrong path. God is the one who knows the right one and wants to lead us on it.
We say, “I’ve got this, I can find my own way!” Then try to pick our way across the glazed pavement or park. Until suddenly we find ourselves stranded on a large treacherous slope that we can ’t cross with easy steps. I especially enjoy (being sarcastic here) the ice storms where even if we stand still we find ourselves slowly sliding down the slightest incline.
And so we crash. Our way fails. Going our own way doesn’t get us there.
We miss our destination of being close to God.
Disobedience or going our own way is simply not the way to get close to God. We don’t spend effort doing what God tells us we should. This includes specific leading that God gives as well as the leading of the Bible. Disobedience, like walking on ice slides us further away from God.
But obedience to God leads us to what we want. God.
I just discovered something I wish I’d found years ago — ice cleats or crampons.
After years of struggling on my own, slipping and sliding it was uncanny how really well cleats work!
We’ve had a series of thaws and freezes so that park trails became treacherous and icy. I finally gave in and bought a set of cleats that fit over my boots. It was transformative! (my wife’s idea, when she’s right she’s right)
I tentatively walked on a semi icy trail. Hmmm, no problem there, they naturally dug in and let me walk without my usual caution. That’s cool, they actually work.
So I got bolder, trying them on more icy sections. While there might be a place or two where I still found some slight slippage they gave me a grip that took away my Canadian shuffle. Wow. This is great!
I went from timid Canadian shuffle to striding boldly forward. There was purpose, energy and confidence in my steps as my feed lifted clearly and rhythmically onward. I was getting some real exercise instead of shuffling along in baby steps.
As I walked confidently ahead I realized the comparison with obedience to God. Obedience to God is transformative to our seeking God. It helps us dig in and get where God leads as opposed to sliding all over the place and falling. And like a set of cleats it actually works. In obedience there is purpose, energy, and confidence.
My purpose comes from following God.
My energy from knowing that purpose and from God’s Holy Spirit.
My confidence comes from trusting God just as I was trusting the ice cleats to be what I needed to move strongly ahead.
And as I think about the exercise factor, I reflect that exercising obedience makes me stronger in my relationship with God drawing me closer to His purposes for me and the world.
As I resolved to not go walking on ice without my ice cleats I also see that seeking to draw close to God without obedience doesn’t make sense either. And if it helps me avoid crashing I’m game! (even without the banging hockey sticks)
Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”
John 14:21 NLT