Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to Gods and the piece of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:4-7 (NRSV)
I have gone skiing exactly one time in my life. In elementary school my childhood best friend Lizzy and her mom offered to let me ride along and ski at the towering, oh-so challenging Mt. Crescent in Iowa. Yep, that’s right, Iowa. Because the Midwest skis, too.
Upon arrival, we rented our skis and immediately set to work in a class of other novices. We moved in circles, trying to keep our balance and move gracefully, our gazes focused on the giant hill holding dozens of talented, skilled people gliding to its base. It was the point of our trip. The goal set before us. And if I had anything to say about it, I was going to make it down that mountain. (And, I use the term mountain loosely. It is in Iowa after all.)
Hopefully in one piece.
We took a break for lunch and then it was time. Lizzy was nervous, but I found a courage I didn’t know existed and rode up the lift with her mom. We got to the top and the butterflies in my stomach were going crazy with loop-de-loops and quick flutters. I stared down the hill with tunnel vision and couldn’t hear anything but the wind blowing around me and my own heart beating much too quickly.
And off I went.
Except no one told me that once you started moving you would just gain speed unless you made the little ‘V’ with the skis they had taught us in class or swooped side to side down the slope. Or maybe I just hadn’t listened to those instructions. Because it wasn’t long before I was rolling head-over-skis, unable to regain control and terrified that this was it.
When the rolling finally stopped people surrounded me. They were asking if I was okay and helping to make sure there were no injuries. In my shock and confusion, I allowed someone to help me up and into a chair. And out loud, I vowed to never, ever do that again.
But I was still in one piece.
Sometimes life snowballs. One struggle after the other, sending us down a hill head-over-skis, and when we get to the bottom, the risk of pain and fear of going back starts over. It can feel like a never ending, overwhelming cycle.
Sometimes it’s lonely. Living in the unknown and uncontrollable is challenging. We muster up the courage to step forward another day and sometimes we feel unstoppable, but others wind up with just another blow. The fear of falling apart as though we’re coming undone at the seams invades and we just want to take our skis off and vow never again.
But we’re still in one piece.
Because even when it feels like we aren’t whole, God desires a wholeness for us that is like no other. The reality is that stumbles and falls are human nature. It’s the realness of sin in this world; it’s the evolution of God’s good creation. And sometimes that doesn’t look exactly how we’d like it to. The truth is…God doesn’t always like it either.
But we are held firm and secure in the promise of God’s love, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit advocating for us. Those promises renew us in every minute of every day. In them we find courage to do both great and difficult things. We make mistakes. We learn from them. We try again. We can trust that we are never alone, that God is with us, in us, and working through us.
The brokenness? It doesn’t last forever. I hurt for days after that ski trip. But eventually the soreness and bruising faded. I was up and running again. I was still whole – just as I was created and called to be.
Even in our worst moments, we are called beloved. A new day comes. We are restored because grace wins every time. God holds space for us to hurt, hurts with us, and renews us because the love of God is greater than all things. And for that, we can give thanks and rejoice.
With God’s help and unending love, we are in one piece.