Becoming a Christian later in life is kind of like learning a new sport as an adult.
I skied for the first time in my early 30s. I had never been super athletic. I liked to bike ride, could swim, and didn’t mind taking a walk or hiking on a trail, but that’s about it. I was generally “fit,” but had never done anything super athletically taxing. Skiing was FOREIGN. Not only did I have to attach these super long planks to hard, uncomfortable boots, but it was COLD. And WET. (This was in Seattle, probably at Snoqualmie or Steven’s Pass, before I realized that there was even such a thing as “dry snow” that you could just brush off your jacket after falling down).
PLUS, I didn’t like to look stupid. I had avoided most athletic, competitive, physical activities, hobbies, etc. in my youth because if I couldn’t do it well right out of the gate, I didn’t want to do it. So, in addition to the PHYSICAL aspect, there was the mental and emotional part of it too.
ANOTHER aspect was DISCOMFORT. I did NOT like discomfort. The "looking stupid" contributed to the discomfort, but besides that, I just didn't like to be challenged. Too hard? Not my thing. Essentially, I did not like to be physically, mentally, or emotionally challenged. Because I could fail.
So, I grew up avoiding physical, mental, and emotional challenges. Adapted. Set in my ways. And then somehow, my husband convinced me I needed to learn to ski. I could write several pages about my first dozen or so skiing experiences, but let’s just say they weren’t successful. They were physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. Then we moved to Idaho.
If you live in Western Washington, there are actually quite a few ski hills. But, they take a long time to get to (depending on where you live of course), have LONG lift lines, have HUGE parking lots that force you to park a half mile from the lodge, and have WET snow. North Idaho is the opposite. You can drive about 45-60 minutes to a resort parking lot that is only minutes away from the lodge or the Gondola. With dry snow. With short lift lines. Huh. Yeah, I didn’t really have much choice. We moved to North Idaho and our family was going to ski.*
There was still quite a transition over several winters as we (I?) figured it out. I got the right gloves (mittens with finger spaces and little zippers for airing out when my hands got too hot), learned how to pack the right food and supplies (cup o’ noodles and hot cocoa so that we could just pay for cheap Styrofoam cups and not go broke), and best of all … I learned how to fall. (I learned how to ski fairly well too, but the falling was more important, because I was finally able to embrace the “looking stupid” part so that I would not be afraid to fall and really hurt myself.**).
Contrast my skiing experience with my kids’. They learned to ski when they were little. When they were close to the ground. Falling wasn’t as scary. They didn’t mind being cold. It was natural. It’s just what you did when you were a little kid in North Idaho. They didn’t know wet snow from dry snow, or long lift lines from short lift lines. They didn’t have any big negative experiences that they carried around as baggage that deterred them from learning to ski like I did.
So… back to Christianity. When you weren’t born and raised in a religious household, it’s really weird to all of a sudden realize that everything you THOUGHT you knew about God was wrong.
Everything you THOUGHT you knew about your life, the way you lived your life, the way you thought about things, habits, friends, music, humility, pride, ego, Satan, etc. is tossed over on its head and is DIFFERENT.
And it’s not very COMFORTABLE. I am still such a spiritual baby. I still seek answers and reasons academically, which isn’t all bad, but it’s just a tiny part of it. My daily “dying to self” still needs a LOT of work. That’s what I have been struggling with. I don’t expect that even mature Christians are “perfect” at “spiritual living” (i.e. 100% every day/hour/minute submission, supplication, thankfulness, humility), but I wonder if my daily struggle is even more so because of the 40+ years I lived “in the world” without a proper compass?
When you’ve depended on your own understanding for so long, it’s really hard and weird to trust God. I’ve been reading “Utmost for His Highest” daily devotions by Oswald Chambers for many months. He talks all the time about trusting God, doing HIS will, etc. I’ve always been so worried about the logistics of this. If I just sit there and pray His will, how will I ever get anything done? I finally realized just a couple weeks ago, that if I pray every day for guidance, with thanksgiving, etc. that God will guide my steps. If I pray in the morning about guidance for the day, and trust that God will guide me, then I can go ahead and accomplish my tasks with His blessing. That seems pretty obvious now. It’s still not always easy to do.
Especially with those 40 years of always worrying about looking stupid, being vulnerable, not doing things perfectly. All those things I avoided at all costs all my life are the things that Jesus wants me to embrace… Humility.
Oswald Chambers says:
“You are Simon . . . . You shall be called Cephas” (John 1:42). God writes our new name only on those places in our lives where He has erased our pride, self-sufficiency, and self-interest. Some of us have our new name written only in certain spots, like spiritual measles. And in those areas of our lives we look all right. When we are in our best spiritual mood, you would think we were the highest quality saints. But don’t dare look at us when we are not in that mood. A true disciple is one who has his new name written all over him— self-interest, pride, and self-sufficiency have been completely erased.
Pride is the sin of making “self” our god. And some of us today do this…”
I do understand this academically, but I still battle daily to REALLY embrace it. I think the academic part is the “learning to ski” part, the physical part, the activity. I go to church, attend prayer group, etc. The easy things. The harder parts are to adjust to your environment, find the right gloves (armor), pack the right snacks (nourishment), and for me – LEARN TO FALL. Embrace humility. I can’t WAIT for that day. And actually, if it goes the way God wants it to, I might not even notice. How cool would THAT be?
* My husband read this and reminded me that back when we were first learning to ski, I had said something like, "well, now we've tried it, we can say we've tried skiing … " Sort of a "been there, done that" attitude. His response was, "well, actually, I thought we'd sort of do this now as an ongoing thing… like a hobby." Funny how our mindsets work. So, our kids have so far grown up skiing with skiing (God) as a hobby and a way of life, not as a one or two-time thing. Oh the many parallels :)…
** On the falling – As I got a little better at skiing and pushing myself, I was still a really BAD faller. I would FIGHT IT. STIFFEN. HURT myself. Try to grab a piece of hill and dig in as I was starting to tumble and slide. The first time I just "let go" and embraced a fall, my husband said "That was an AWESOME fall!!" I thought he was mocking me, but he wasn't. He was really proud that I just let go and accepted what was happening. Now I am quite proud of my falls. Even when I feel a little out of control, like maybe I'm going to fast and I start to feel like I'm going to go down, I will almost FORCE a controlled wipe out, completely relaxing and sliding down the whole ski run on my back if necessary. I wish I could yield like that in other areas of life … someday.