In an icy parking lot earlier this week, the footing was dicey, and, at one point, I blurted out to no one in particular, “Trust your boots girl!” This adage bubbled up from a deeply-etched memory of a time in high school when a group of gals was climbing Mount Meeker in the front range of Rocky Mountain National Park. At 13,911 feet, it’s the closest I’ve ever come to peaking a fourteener. At one point along that climb, there was a steep portion, prompting one member of our group to happily call out,
“Trust your boots girls!”
While at Colorado State University, I reveled in backcountry cross-country skiing. I took a 2-day lesson the first time, and the instructor emphasized the need to trust your skis so that you could flow with them as they glided. Just before moving back to the Midwest for grad school, I purchased a set of used skis and boots from the ski rental store. The next snow, I waxed them up to go skiing. I could not ski! My left foot kept sliding sideways, and the ski itself seemed to awkwardly tilt my boot so I had no traction or control. My husband-to-be laughed at my claims of being an experienced skier. We soon discovered that the store in Fort Collins had sold me skis with two right-footed bindings. Trust your boots indeed.
When learning to kayak in Wales, we practiced rolling in an indoor pool. Despite heroic attempts, I never did master a tip and roll. The instructor’s advice to trust your skill in the whitewater rapids didn’t sit well with me. I knew if I capsized, I’d be permanently upside-down knocking my head on submerged rocks. Having once before been pinned under a turtled boat (see blog post Unbounded Joy, 7-31-18), a healthy respect for the water had evolved into an irrational fear of drowning.
It is just common sense to be fully prepared for a wilderness adventure-to have the right equipment and skill set to see you through to a happy conclusion.
When paddling or hiking, you have to trust your instincts, your experience, your companions, and your preparations. It is folly to be unprepared.
Still, you can never be prepared for everything. Accidents happen with no warning. Wind and weather are fickle. Forests catch fire, and rivers and canyons can swiftly flood. What can you trust when the world turns inside out, when trickles of doubt mushroom into cascades of fear for your safety, even for your life?
Proverbs teaches that trust is an outcome of wisdom, and that wisdom, in turn, is the principal heir of a healthy fear of God.
This is not the kind of fear that makes us dread God’s judgment, but, rather, the kind that sees beauty in creation and is wowed by the God who made it. Not fright but reverence. *
It seems to me we prepare for our trip through the wilderness of this world- on this side of the river- much better than we prepare to face a holy God, misplacing our sense of security by trusting in things, jobs, money, ‘safe’ cars, our own thinking. When my husband was in the ER a few years ago with multiple and deadly pulmonary emboli in both lungs, we did trust that the surgeon would do his best to keep death at bay. Still, our ability to remain calm and hopeful (it was surreal to be honest) came from a stronger, deeper, surer Source. From God himself, whom we love, fear, and deeply trust to make the path through the wilderness straight.
I hope you can spend a little down time this winter working out in what, or whom you place your trust. Life is fragile at best, and downright slippery at its worst.
* for more on the wisdom of Proverbs, see God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life by Tim and Kathy Keller. 2017.