“The bumps make it hard, don’t they?” I offered, trying to make the girl feel better.
She was maybe twelve-years-old, one of a dozen or so skaters at our local outdoor rink, a pond that gets flooded every winter a few blocks down the road from our house.
“They make it easier!” she said and went on her bumpy, jerking way–arms outstretched to keep from falling. “Then you don’t go flying into a snow bank!”
I smiled, fighting to stay upright as I clumsily pushed myself across the ice. Nearby, my ten-year-old daughter skated with a friend, more smoothly than I could imagine with so many clumps and holes and cracks threatening to pull me down. My four-year-old, clattered along on double-blades–more like walking than skating–while swinging a stick at a hockey puck.
It was a bright March afternoon, the sun just strong enough to offset the wind that pushed against our back. Cinching down the hood of my long, down parka, I circled the rink, trying to avoid the biggest obstacles and thinking, How on earth could bumps make skating easier?
Then I noticed how carefully I was watching the ice. How slowly and deliberately I chose my direction. I switched back and forth across the flooded field, trying to avoid the worst hazards. And, as my young fellow skater had pointed out, I’d not yet hurtled into a snow bank.
In a culture that says, “Rush! Rush! Rush!” and “Achieve! Achieve! Achieve!” don’t we all long to glide smoothly around the rink of life, graceful and swift and managing to stay on our feet?
Yet, the bumps and ruts God allows, cause us to slow and watch. Rather than blindly racing forward, we pay attention, carefully considering our direction. And if we are wise and responsive, they keep us from flying headlong into a spectacular crash.
So many times on this writing journey, I’ve wished to bend low over the ice of my words and race toward the finish line–publishing!–like an Olympic speed skater. But there’s more.
There is a home to keep. A husband to love. Children to teach and nurture and play with. There are articles to write (the way I earn a check). And neighbors to visit. A church to grow. Other books to read. And my community to take part in.
These take time–time that takes away from my words and writing.
But all obstacles are not hindrances.
Sometimes, as this day on the ice reminded me, they are an opportunity to slow down and take it all in–the light sparkling off frozen water, the hockey players swirling like dancers on the far side of the pond, the laughter of my daughter as she gripped the ice with the toe of her blade to land a twirl, my little son shooting a hockey puck through the legs of a metal folding chair.
Who would want to miss this?
“For what benefit is it for a person to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his life?” Jesus asked his followers (Mark 8:36 NET).
He was, of course, speaking about the much bigger loss of pursuing temporary, earthly things at the cost of overlooking heavenly, eternal things. But I think it applies in the small daily choices we make as well.
Today, instead of rushing through your work–whatever it is, pause if you can. See the things that slow you down as opportunities to pay attention.
What “bumps” are you facing this week? And how can you use these as opportunities to focus on the bigger things going on around you?