The strength to get up: Lessons I’ve learned from sledding.

I love snow! When I was a kid we rode snowmobiles at an uncle’s farm one winter. I remember flying through the snow and hitting bumps that would knock whoever was in the back (usually me) into a drift, only to be found later when the person driving thought to turn around. For fun closer to home (and closer to the emergency room), there was a hill in my home town that was THE BEST sledding hill in town . . . or as the locals called it, “The only hill in town.” One year, my brother Huey used all his savings and bought a toboggan for our winter fun. When the first snow arrived, the four of us loaded onto the freshly-waxed J-shaped sled for the ride of our lives. The design of the toboggan is unique with a curved front sadistically positioned so if you hit an object head-on instead of falling off the sled, the brother in front would slam forward and knock a kidney out. Any remaining brothers crashed into each other or were propelled off the sides at the speed of sound. Meanwhile, the toboggan quietly laughed as it leisurely meandered down the hill carrying One-Kidney Brother (who is slumped over and softly crying) down to the bottom of the hill. After assuring no limbs were lost, we got up and dust ourselves off. “Let’s do it again!” Together we pulled the long sled up the hill several more times until frost bite set in.

I’ve tried snow-skiing as a winter sport and even had Winter Olympic aspirations one year when I graduated from the “Bunny Hill” to the “Little Tot Hill.” I actually grew quite talented at down-hill skiing but, like much of my athleticism, I was a little weak in one or two areas that others considered critical to the sport: (1) A fear of heights made me cry like a little girl on the ride to the top of the mountain. (2) I couldn’t ski in a straight line. (3) I fell a lot. (4) I couldn’t keep my skis on. (5) I didn’t know how to stop.

When we lived in Wisconsin we often played in the snow with our daughters. We experienced horse-drawn carriage rides once a year, snuggled under big wool blankets, in sub-zero temperatures and warmed up with hot chocolate when it was over. The other days, we took our plastic sleds out on some big hills and usually wiped out once or twice before we hit the bottom. Sometimes I’d intentionally aim for a makeshift snow ramp and my daughters and I would lift into the air — only to come down again, hitting the ground even harder. Our girls would occasionally cry in fear on the way down but when we hit the bottom they’d smile and say, “Again!” So we’d dust the snow off, and walk back up hand-in-hand to do it again.

When our girls were ages two and four, my wife and I bundled them up for a fast sled ride at a nearby park. Our baby girls were wrapped tightly in snowsuits, and boots, hats, and scarves, and mittens, and hats, and scarves, and boots, eventually looking more wide than tall. Through the layers I could barely see their smiles: nervous, excited, yet trusting. The park we walked to had no hills, so I’d run pulling them as fast as I could, weaving back and forth to make the ride even faster and more exciting. I remember taking a sharp fast turn once and suddenly my load felt much lighter. Looking back I saw two pink snow suits with pink furry boots sticking out of a deep snow drift. I ran back to see if any limbs were missing and I heard a faint united cry from the depths of the snow bank: “Dad! Go again!”

You can’t play in the snow without the risk of falling and you can’t sled downhill without having to walk up the hill again. Little kids love sledding no matter how cold or dangerous. The innocent faith of someone so small to reach up for the hand extended and get up again and again after he or she has fallen is amazing. Out of breath, head hurting, and knees wobbling, the child hesitantly gets up . . . partly out of trust, but mostly for the joy of companionship. Hand-in-hand, the walk up the hill is worth the strain. And although the ride down might be a little frightening, the one you trust is in complete control. When you hit a bump or fall down hard (and you will), you will be okay. No matter how much you hurt, no matter how deep you’re buried, you are not alone. Reach up. The hand reaching down is what gives you the strength to rise. “Do you want to go again?” He asks.

If he stumbles, he’s not down for long; God has a grip on his hand. (Psalm 37:24 MSG)
I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. . . . Neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow. (Romans 8:38 NLT)

Calvin G. Roso, Copyright January 2014

Published by Calvin G. Roso

Christ-follower, husband, father, educator, and story-teller.

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