Catholic Husband

Love / Lead / Serve

Icy Slopes

I went skiing for the first time in my life last week. We started discussing a trip in July and firmed up later in the fall. I spent a lot of time thinking about the trip's logistics and surprisingly little on the mechanics of learning this new skill.

As one can imagine, the critical skill is braking. While beginner trails are wide and calm, they are cut through woods. There are trees, light poles, and other skiers to avoid. Our trip in mid-February put us in the dead of winter, so it was very, very cold.

On the night before leaving, Alison and I had a ski date after putting the kids to bed. With grandparents in place watching over the house, we made five runs in an hour. The temperature had not changed much since sunset, and ice was already covering most trails. After dark, however, the ice reigned.

Cutting large S-curves into the trail is fun, but as you master your basic skills, there are many times when you take too long to start a turn or brake. As your speed increases, you become unstable, and falls can occur. On the ice, the problem magnifies. The skis accelerate as one smooth surface glides over the other, and the skier has few options.

Sometimes, I chose to fall. Better to engineer a soft landing than to careen over an embankment or slam into a snow machine. Other times, I panicked for a moment before reaching into my pilot skills to put my head back on straight. Knowing how to fly an airplane imparts many valuable skills. When panic is subjugated, and fundamentals asserted, braking is successful.

Our nature and weakness largely shape the mistakes we make in our spiritual life. Skipping one day of prayer because you overslept or were on vacation may seem like a small matter. But temptation is always like ice. It's smooth, slippery, and sometimes hard to spot; it wants to guide you quickly and helplessly into sin. We know our weak spots, we know our blind spots, but vigilance is exhausting.

Sure enough, if we fail to maintain our speed and brake appropriately, the ice of temptation takes control of our skis and drags us to a destination that we'd prefer to avoid. But, if we don't panic and keep our head on straight, regaining control is as simple as falling back on the fundamentals: brake, pray, and steer clear.