I learned how to ski when I was nine-years-old. That’s a little old for some kids, but I was not then, and still am not now, a very coordinated and athletic person, so nine was probably a good age for me. We piled the trunk of the car with our snow suits and ski rentals and headed up to the mountains early in the morning.
When we got there, we started out on what’s called the bunny hill. It’s literally a hill at the base of the mountain that is made for kids to practice on. It’s not steep but has just enough of a slope to it that you can kind of get the hang of skiing before you head down an actual run. If you’ve never seen a bunny hill before, it’s easily identified by the many kids in various shades of puffy snow suits inhabiting it. They are either in the process of falling, already sprawled out on the hill, or slowly gliding down the hill with their skis in a wedge shape that resembles just under half of a pizza.
I spent a lot of time on the bunny hill.
It’s not that I was bad at skiing. I’m decent enough and I enjoyed it. The thing was that I didn’t trust myself, my skis, my ability, to get me down the real mountain safely. On the bunny hill, I felt safe and comfortable, like I had mastered something. Never mind that I was really just perpetually warming up for nothing. I doubted that I could ski for real, that I would feel safe and have fun, so I stayed on the bunny hill for a while.
That’s the thing with doubt — it can limit you. It can keep you in a holding pattern that never goes beyond what you know for sure, what you’re ok with.
The Israelites knew a thing about holding patterns. They wandered around in one for forty years.
“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.” Exodus 13: 17-18 NIV
God could have taken the Israelites through the more direct route to the Promised Land. It would have involved battles to claim their inheritance, it would have involved miraculous victory and the very hand of God raised for them. It would have required them to trust that the Lord was good and would do what He said. It would have required them to not look back at the place that had been just good enough but to look at what lay before them.
God knew that they couldn’t do that though. He knew that their hearts doubted His strength and love and goodness and that any sign of trouble would send them reeling.
So He took them on the long way around, the one that led them to wandering for 40 years and even after they saw the Lord split the sea so they could walk through it, send water forth from a rock, guide them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, and feed them with bread from Heaven, they still didn’t trust Him enough. Those Israelites that made a home for doubt in their hearts never got to see the land that God had promised them. Their children were the people that got to see the victory and lay hold of the inheritance that flowed with milk and honey. They were the generation that got to walk in God’s promises and feel His hand carry them forward like skis on snow.
But those that came before, those that didn’t trust, they stayed on the bunny hill.
My Pastor read us this passage from Exodus this week and it struck a chord with me. I couldn’t help but ask myself if I was allowing doubt to force God into letting me wander.
You see, God has so many good things for us. He has big plans, miraculous plans full of joy and favor and growth and victory, but sometimes those involve things that can scare us. We worry that if we walk in God’s plan he’ll ask us to give up too much or we’ll be stretched more than we want. God sees that in our hearts and, like the Israelites, realizes that we might run at the first sign of trouble. He sees that we’re not ready so He waits until we are.
Even though we’ve seen His love and goodness and provision time and time again, we doubt.
So here’s my question. Where is there doubt in your heart? Where are you choosing not to trust in the goodness of God and how can you change that? I’ll be asking myself the same thing this week because it’s too important not to. We can’t afford to let ourselves get stuck in the wandering ways of doubting. Of course the Lord is patient with us and He’ll take care of us while he waits just like He did for the Israelites, but look at what they missed out on! Look at what their doubt wrought in their hearts and lives.
I was too scared to try anything beyond the bunny hill for a little while. I was ready for the slopes but my doubt held me back. But then, I finally worked up the courage to get on that ski-lift. I rolled off of it with shaky legs at the top and looked down at the slope in front of me. I had left the bunny hill, the security, the confidence I had behind, but I was ready. My legs knew what to do and my skis followed the trail and I glided and soared down that mountain.
It was as close to flying as I had ever come. It felt good. All that time that I had spent on the bunny hill could have been spent doing that and I felt silly that I hadn’t trusted.
Don’t miss out on your opportunity to fly fast and to take the ride that God has in mind for you. Say goodbye to the bunny hill, goodbye to doubt and ride that ski lift of trust right up to what He has for you. Don’t get stuck like the Israelites. Take the fast track marked by trust.