Benaiah went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion. As one of David’s mighty men he distinguished himself as a ‘doer of great deeds’ (II Sam.23:20). I am not so brave. I can’t fathom choosing to go down into a pit with a lion. I did however choose to go skiing once again yesterday, defying my latent fears that this could be the day that…the inevitable catastrophe happens. And I did end up consequently in a pit on a snowy day, but not on purpose! I rolled there inadvertently after doing a face plant in the snow at the finish of a rather frightening hill on a narrow track, a track that ran too close to a softening edge…
Snow was all I could see. Wet snow filling my glasses. I wasn’t hurt and I’ve had quite a bit of practice getting up from these sorts of spills. So, since cold can set in pretty quickly when you lie about in snow, without stopping to clear my vision I proceeded to roll to my side to get up. But Whaaa! NO!!!…the snow moved away under me and down I tumbled blind in very slow motion sideways and a bit headlong to land firmly shouldered in a semi-fetal position, skis firmly wedged in place, feet painfully fettered to them at an intense angle–STUCK nearly immobile in a snowy pit. My fears had come to roost. I had observed these trail-side holes on other days and had avoided letting my imagination play with what it would be like to fall in one. This one I had not seen. And here I was. What do you do when your fears come to roost?
I did the first thing that came to mind: I hollered “HELP! HELP!” knowing even as I did it that it was useless. Noone could hear me. I was alone in this neck of the woods. (And there is no cell-phone coverage in these parts either.) The only threesome of people I’d seen were back up at the hut I’d left, just settling in to wait for foil-wrapped sandwiches to warm on the stove. I was supposed to have been with Jim but had taken the wrong fork in the trail a while back and ended up at the wrong hut, miles from the hut where Jim presumably sat waiting for me to show up… Making the most of my poor choice I had grabbed a quick snack at the hut, warmed up a bit, and headed back down the mountain to home base solo, a little unnerved by the steep trails. But managing. Until this.
I was stuck! Pulling my hands free of their pole straps I wiped the snow crystals from my lenses to see where I was. It was a cozy pit of snow, just big enough for me to plunk into in a topsy-turvy muddle, but not big enough to move in. Water trickled over rocks at the bottom, water I hoped to keep myself out of! A season’s worth of snowfall formed its walls and precluded my view of the trail above. But at least there was no lion in my pit. No lion but my own fears.
“Lord, help me…” I pleaded struggling to free my boots from their bindings so I could move! It’s as simple in theory as pushing a button, but for the life of me I could not get the leverage needed to both push hard enough and pull at the requisite angle to detach my ski boots. There was too much pressure on the binding from my cramped feet. I had to give it up. But I had to get my feet out of that awful position! Loosing the velcro straps I pulled my feet right out of their boots, and stood sock-footed on the wet cold rocks in my snowy pit. (Yay for wool socks!!) What a relief to be able to stand up!
After that it was pretty straightforward: Extract skis and toss them up to the surface. Pull poles out of the snow walls and see about using them to hoist me out of that pit. No go. Snow just moves away, especially soft melting snow. What a pickle. Wet, chest-high snow is not so simple to scale. But I lunged at it a few times and on about the third jump managed to crawl out onto the trail beside my skiis and boots and ski poles. Whew! There I was, stocking-footed, wet-seated, in a spectacular snowy wilderness! I was cognizant of the absurdity of it even as I scrambled to put myself back together. I was relieved and grateful to be standing there but also shaken and not far from tears. Jim’s frequent admonition echoed in my head: “Work quickly. It’s cold out here.” Highly motivated by fingers now getting cold and feet eager for boots, I was back in gear in no time, pausing only long enough to snap a picture of a now rather innocuous-looking hole in the snow. And to regret that alas, my water bottle lay at the bottom of that pit where it must have fallen from my pocket in the tumble down. Sigh. I was thirsty already. But in just a few more miles I would be ‘home’…
Never did the warming hut at the trailhead look so welcoming. As I removed my skiis and trudged up toward the parked van to retrieve some warm dry clothes I just wanted to have a good cry, but instead found myself reciting all the ways God had in fact protected me from the worst. “Yes, Lord…” I was neither cold nor injured. (Later I would feel the black and blue toenail, and the stiff neck and shoulder.) My glasses were intact, as were my skiis and poles. I had been perfectly able, though shaky, to ski back safely with just a couple falls along the way. All was in fact well.
I had lived through a scary situation. Shaken but not debilitated. Frightened but not paralyzed. On my own, but not alone. God had carried me through fears I had wished only to skirt. He does this at times. As I’ve pondered just why I’ve been compelled to drag you through this dramatized account, which has taken far longer to write about than to live through, I have realized something. Threats to my physical well-being are not my greatest liability. I’m learning that with God at hand I can rise to the occasion and scramble out of these as necessity requires. It’s the invisible fears that paralyze our souls and immobilize us from living out God’s design for us that pose our greatest threat.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come…
My greatest dangers will not be faced on a ski trail or the back of a tandem bike rocketing down a highway. These are only practice for facing my more debilitating fears and keeping going–a blank page in Live Writer, for instance, or another Friday’s blog post, another chance to share my story of hope in the Living God who rescues His children continuously from themselves–when they get all balled up in a pit with their fears of inadequacy and can’t seem to move…. He gently lifts them out, sets them on their stocking feet, and frees them to tell of all He has done. It’s not about getting the words perfect or gaining an impressive audience. It’s not about competing with all the talented writers out there. It’s about sharing my story of what God is doing in this life He’s given me for His own fame. It’s about sharing the manna He feeds me daily from His word.
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home…
And just maybe this means you’ll begin to see posts appear here once again. If so, each will be, by default, a testimony to His grace overcoming my insecurities. I have not been called to descend into a pit to fight a lion, but I am called to resist that lion’s paralyzing roar. And to climb from the pit of my own fears of inadequacy and do the next thing. God’s strength is sufficient for His calling. It shows up best in the place of weakness.
Behold, God is my salvation. I will trust and will not be afraid for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation. (Is.12:2)
Are you stuck? May I share a checklist based on my own experience?
- Call for help–God hears when noone else can.
- Clear your vision: Where am I? Where do I want to be?
- Resist fear and panic–keep breathing and moving…
- Do the next thing–whatever it is you can do, one bit at a time.
- Make it a priority to GET UP! (‘Arise’ is how Scripture repeatedly puts it!) This may require getting your feet wet. That’s ok.
- And remember, God is at hand providing everything you need to get unstuck. He died to set you free!
Oh, and when the snowy pit is behind you, don’t forget to tell your story, for from it God’s glory will shine!
God calls us to overcome our fears, but never alone. He is always there, to instruct, to calm, to help us to do the next thing, and to bring us safely home. He who died to redeem our lives from eternal destruction, can surely assist us out of unforeseen pits on snowy days…
“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits…who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy…” Ps.103:2-4
“But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” Ps13:5,6
“I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.” Ps.16:8
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed! Jn.8:36
Behold, the LORD thy God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged. Deut.1:21
Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. Is.60:1
For God has not given us the spirit of fear;
but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. II Tim.1:7
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith…But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”