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Skiing and the spiritual life

First slide

Skiing, I’ve heard it said, is like golf: the more you try to take control and use your own power, the more likely you are to see poor results. If in golf it is advised to “Let the club do the work for you,” in skiing it can equally be said to “Let the skis do the work for you.” Do not try to power your way down the hill; use the skis as they were intended, knowing how and when to properly turn and slow down, and trust that if properly fitted, your skis will get you downhill safely.

Skiing, it can also be said, is like the spiritual life: Most of the time it is advisable to take it as it comes to you.

I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when I went skiing for the first time in a few years. Although it came back pretty quickly, I nonetheless had a fall; not because I was trying to do anything fancy, or power my way down the hill, but because I tried to avoid what I thought was an icy or rough patch, and ended up getting my skis caught in each other. After falling onto my side and sliding down the hill for what seemed like half a minute, I saw my phone, which had fallen out of my jacket, tumbling down next to me, coming to a stop just out of reach. Thankfully I wasn’t hurt (well, other than my pride).

Nonetheless, this fall reinforced the importance of taking things as they come, and that when we start to worry or grapple for control, things only get worse. So much of life, I’ve come to realize, is about trust. (And we’ve seen trust fall to all-time lows in so many institutions). But the question of our lives is, can we trust God? And, more importantly, do we trust him?

As I looked back on my fall on the slopes, I thought about St. Peter starting to sink as he looked at himself and his (natural) situation. He didn’t trust that he was actually walking on water, or he was seeking a natural explanation for it and began to doubt reality or ignore him who was allowing it. Similarly, my fall was perhaps due to over-compensating or trying too hard to avoid the difficult spot; I just needed to keep skiing.

The wisdom of the saints reminds us that everything that comes to us is in some way given to us by God. Though we can only see part of the eternal picture, he sees all of it, and invites us to trust that he gives us exactly what we need to get us to eternal life — even if it includes an occasional tumble down the hill. 

Farrell, who is from St. Louis Church in Alexandria, is in his second year of pre-theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021