If I asked you to hurl yourself down a snow and/or ice-covered mountain at 70 miles per hour, what would your response be? I expect some snow ski, bike or car enthusiasts might consider it a challenge, but the rest of us sane people would be a little trepidatious. I ski, but I can assure you that my speed is never anywhere near 70! Now for those of you who think 70mph sounds fun, what if I asked you to do it WITH YOUR EYES CLOSED?! Oh, and turn from side to side while you are at it! That is exactly what class B1 Paralympic skiers do! B1 skiers have 1-5% of their sight or cannot recognize a 15×15 cm E at 10 inches away. To make sure there is a level field competing, this group wears black-out lenses in their goggles, so no skier can see AT ALL. Several things came to mind while I watched this group compete: trust, determination, and fearlessness (also some degree of insanity!).
Watching the Paralympic games this week has heightened every emotion I have. Many tears were shed as I watched the grit and tenacity of those deemed “disabled” come to a worldwide stage to showcase their “can do” attitude. It was so inspiring that I truly felt like I could also do anything. Many of the athletes said that was, in fact, their goal: to inspire others. Well done and mission accomplished! The blind skiers, for me, took the cake.
The skiers each had a guide that would ski just ahead of them. Equipped with headset communications, the guide would talk the competitor through the roughly minute and a half downward zoom. This guide had their racer’s complete trust. As racer relied on their lead to describe every nuance, bump and turn of the race course, they submitted totally to the guide’s call. This enacted what the apostle Paul uses to describe Christians who follow Jesus in such a way: “We walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7 For Christians, Jesus is our guide as we blaze through life.
For the ski guide, I imagine they must prove trustworthy. Once I led a blind friend through our church lobby. I managed to run him into something. I didn’t qualify as a trustworthy guide. The skier’s guide must be knowledgeable – of the sport, the skier and anything that affects each race. They must be focused. Can you imagine the disaster if the guide was distracted by a bird, or the scenery? There must be a strong relationship between racer and leader so that even the inflections of their voice, or the noise of their ski is familiar and telling to the one following.
Jesus has proven Himself a trustworthy guide – by His creation, His miracles, His life as a human – leading us by example, and through His death and resurrection – showing us that He gave all that He had for us. He kicked it up a notch by the fact He did everything because of His great love for each and every one of us.
Just as the athlete must not only trust and submit, they must do the work! They must:
- choose to follow the leading of their guide.
- know their guide: their voice inflections, their thought patterns, their personality.
- spend much time with the one they allow to lead them so that they understand them in every situation.
- trust and follow the guide when everything inside of them says that isn’t the best way.
- trust and follow the guide in the worst of conditions, believing that they know best and will bring them safely through.
As followers of Jesus, this list is something we can live by. Jesus will safely lead us to the finish line of life. Then there will be much celebration when we say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day” 2 Timothy 4:7-8.