About a year ago I tried my hand at skiing for the first time. Though I grew up in the Pacific Northwest I lived vicariously through friends who regaled me with snowscapades detailing the beauty of the mountains and the aftermath of s’mores and hot chocolate next to a cozy fire. In adulthood this curiosity continued to rear its head, so when the opportunity arose to go to Aspen, Colorado with a group of friends, it seemed like providence.
Being a complete beginner, I signed up for lessons to make sure I would have the fundamentals in place before tackling any moguls. Pizzas and french fries, which previously elicited mouth-watering thoughts of Papa Johns and McDonalds, now carried entirely different meanings in ski terminology. But the instructor was a consummate professional blessed with a fierce tan and patience of Buddha who taught me everything I needed to know to hit the slopes the very next day.
And what an incredible day that dawned with perfect conditions casting sunlight onto tousled snow, lighting the paths and trees with vibrant color. Though we had marveled at the mountains from a distance, I was unprepared for the sheer heights that we would climb, inspiring no little degree of fear and discomfort. But there’s only one way to get back down a mountain, and so off we went, falling and bruising bones and pride all the way.
When the final run was upon us, we stood for a moment at the summit admiring the sunset. It was breathtaking: sky bathed in pink, lavender, gold, and blue hues that rested gently over the horizon, light shadows from the trees softening the snow and cutting a path directly to heaven. I took one more breath and cast off, and for a moment I stopped thinking about falling out of my skis to my imminent death, stopped thinking about the copious unread work emails and to-dos waiting at home, and simply engaged, surrendering to this moment. I felt freedom for the first time in months, free from obligation and social expectations, free from fear: fear of outstanding ‘what-ifs’, the uncertain future, and the fear that things would start unraveling beyond my control.
As I fell into rhythm, the words of my instructor came to mind. She’d told us that our natural instinct would be to look down at the ground at our skis, resulting in misstepping and eating the snow. Rather, we needed to train ourselves to look upwards in the direction we wanted to go, taking our focus off ourselves, and trusting that our bodies would naturally follow, intuiting the mechanisms required to turn without guidance.
And that’s when it finally clicked. All day I had been anxiously forcing my way down the mountain. Ironically the more I tried to control the skis and ensure that every angle was accounted for, the more my body resisted, immediately tensing and constantly anticipating the moment when my body would lose control and hit the ground.
And how apt a metaphor for our lives. We exhaustively fight to control every aspect of life, agonizing over decisions and details, presuming that the more time, resources, and energy we expend in our efforts, the greater the likelihood of success. Be it our careers, studies, relationships, family, finances, our bodies, our very emotions, we force things to align with our plans, becoming risk averse and complacent with routine, maximizing efficiency and minimizing pain. But in seeking perfection and avoiding mistakes how often are we like errant skiers, fixed solely on a single, unwavering path, resisting the steps along the journey that would actually bring us true joy and freedom?
What would it look like if we relinquished the stranglehold of self-sovereignty over our lives? What would it look like if we asked God to align our will with His will, fixing our eyes upward towards Him instead of downward at ourselves, even if that meant sacrificing ‘our’ plans in obedience to His voice? It sounds terrifying, doesn’t it? Inviting Him to create paths to the unknown or to the hard places…so what could we possibly gain? In a word, everything.
If we truly trusted that God is sovereign and works for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28) we would be able to experience inexplicable joy, even when things don’t seem to be going ‘according to plan’. In our popular, western culture, submission is synonymous with humiliation and weakness. But on the contrary, we need look no further than Jesus himself for submission as the manifestation of humility; for before he was crucified, Jesus submitted himself to the Father in the greatest, most selfless act of loving surrender, proclaiming: “Not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)
Christ took the cup that we were unwilling to take and used it for the Father’s ultimate glory – to bring life and light to those who would put their faith in Him. What comfort lies in knowing that the Father who meticulously designed the beautiful snow capped mountains and so intentionally carved the majesty of the Rockies has even greater intentionality and purpose for every detail of our lives because He loves us unconditionally. All we need to do is let go.
At the peak of a mountain in Aspen I surrendered my designs. Without even thinking or trying to control the path, my body was moving forward, the stunning landscape a poignant lesson that when we let go and take the valleys and highs as they come, we actually get to enjoy the view. Upon relinquishing control and fear of the unknown, we create the space for God to step in and be our guide, conquering even the steepest of slopes.
I came away from our trip rich in appreciation for God’s authority and power. For as much inspiration and beauty lie in nature and vacations, even more lies in the simplicity of mundane experiences. We can cherish and make each day beautiful, reveling in God’s intentionality across all circumstances. The path may wind through darker and steeper inclines for a time until we reach that moment — the perfect moment when we simply surrender our lives, break free from our chains, and launch into the brilliant expanse ahead.
‘Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counselor?’ (Isaiah 40:12)
‘I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.’
Kathryn is the founder of That’s What She. After years spent roaming through the wilderness she met Christ in adulthood and hasn’t looked back. An avid lover of music, storytelling, and prone to run-ons, she hopes to embark on this journey with all of you and learn quite a few things along the way.
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