I was born and raised in East Peoria, Illinois. That meant several things: my dad worked at Caterpillar Tractors, I shopped at Bergner’s department store, and I routinely enjoyed three feet of snow every winter. When we lived in San Diego, people spoke of “visiting the snow.” When you lived in Illinois, the snow visited you … and stayed for a while.
While living in California for fifteen of the last eighteen years, we didn’t see much snow. We did see snow on the news. If I remember correctly, I think people sent us pictures of the snow. Theologically speaking, we enjoyed the snow vicariously and was content to do so.
For some reason, God thought we had experienced enough blue skies and warm temperatures and decided it was time to move us back to where it snows. Which it did this week in a big way. And he used sledding to teach me about spiritual growth.
We took the girls and our sleds, saucers, and the Zippy One Man Luge to a hill in Littleton yesterday. Not too steep to scare them but steep enough to have fun. The snow was well packed and the momentum could carry you quite a ways.
Here’s the first thing I learned: going down the hill is fun. Head-first on the toboggan or spinning in the saucer, it’s fun to zip down the hill.
Here’s the second lesson I learned: getting back up the hill is hard work. It’s tough enough that you’re starting at an elevation of one mile above sea-level. By the time you get back to the top of the hill, it takes a minute or two to catch your breath and regroup.
Spiritual growth is like that. As Christ-followers, we enjoy the thrill of zipping down the hill. When life and faith and hope and purpose all line up, it’s great! There’s nothing quite like the thrill of knowing that you are walking in alignment with God. Adrenaline kicks in and we hold on the for the ride of our life.
But then we reach the end of the ride, turn around, and see that we have walk back up the hill if we want to experience the thrill again. There’s no shortcut. Maybe a partner will carry your sled. You’re free to stop and rest along the way. But to take the ride again, you have to keep plugging up the hill.
Where does the growth come in? It’s not as much in the thrills as in the hard work it takes to enjoy the thrills. Spiritual growth happens when we exercise. The thrill of being in alignment with God comes as the result of spending hours in his word, praying through situations, and seeking the counsel of others.
It’s hard work but the ride is worth it.