Thursday, February 18, 2010
A Five-year-old on Ice Skates – A Story of Determination
“Will you please come ice skating with me, KK?” JB said as he cocked his gap-model head accented with puppy dog eyes at me. Um, how could I say no to that? My plans of coffee shop lounging/espresso sipping/Internet surfing/job searching flew away like that piece of trash you didn’t mean to let slip out of the car window on the freeway. Woops. So I laced up my five dollar rental skates, prepared to hold this adorable five-year-old’s hand as we glided across the ice together, eventually being able to experience the joy of letting go of the gripping hand to see him find his own feet on the ice – the idea being for him to skate without my help and being able to enjoy the fruit of my labors. Reality check - not going to happen, KK. With strength of mind, JB let me tie his skates on, then headed across the rubber mats to take his first step onto the ice. The poor disillusioned child thought it would be a cinch. On his way to the rink, someone greeted him with a “Hi, JB! How are you?” He didn’t flinch but responded determinedly, “I can’t talk right now, I’m just concentrating.” I followed close behind as the metal blade of his skate met the ice and his idea of how easy this would be began to slip out of his mind, unable to stay in place despite his mental attempts at keeping it there. He flailed like a fish out of water, making desperate attempts to keep himself vertical by holding onto the wall of the rink with one hand, and my hand on the other side. My continuous exhortations to take it slow, to put one foot in front of the other, never made it past his cute little head of silky brown hair. Instead of gently easing his skates forward one at a time, he insisted on jerking them backwards in a fast, repetitive motion, attempting to sprint across the ice. “The faster I go, the steadier I get!” he shouted behind him once, right before his chest and hands caught the weight of his body on the wet ice. He tried holding onto an upside down wastebasket, but because he is tall for his age, skating along at a 90-degree angle didn’t seem to improve his skills much. We tried several methods, but mainly resorted to our wall and hand gripping device. Near the end, I ended up just wrapping my arms around his chest, under his arms, instructing him to keep his feet STILL so he could slide across the ice and just enjoy it. Fortunately, there were several who took pity on my quickly failing plight (and were also, most likely, partly drawn in by JB’s effortless charm that was prominent even in his unsuccessful skating attempts,) and offered to take him for a lap around the rink, or to grab his other hand as a team effort. This, probably unbeknownst to the individual offering, was a half an hour volunteer job. It also consisted of about six or seven lifts of the full weight of this boy decked out in heavy snow clothes with skates on. After about an hour of these trips around the rink, holding onto this slipping and sliding kid, lifting him up and making coaching attempts that were slowly decreasing in frequency, spectators and volunteers began to inquire after my back, to make sure I wasn’t in pain. My back was fine - JB’s tenacity and determination to master this sport seemed to increase my patience. I admired his desire to keep trying. A few times I gently asked him if he wanted to step off the ice for a while, “no! I’m just ready for another trip around, KK,” he would respond. Once he looked up at me endearingly and softly said, “lots of these kids are better than me, huh?” Then, after a long pause, “but practice makes perfect!” He skated away just to fall down again. After the two hours on the rink, JB and I were both ready to step off. I assured him that next time he tried, it wouldn’t seem so foreign and hard. He’s excited to take another stab at it. I love that boy.
I think this experience is analogous to how God looks at me. I feel like in living my life in the attempt of being set apart for God, and in my attempts to increase the closeness of spiritual proximity to Him, I am about as successful as JB on the ice sometimes. But like JB, I don’t want to give up – and God is still holding my hand, constantly picking me up and setting me on my feet again, only His back never gets tired. Sometimes he even has to grab me from behind and gently push me along. But while my patience with JB would eventually run out, His patience with me is infinite. I want my tenacity to remain. I always want to have that desire to step back out onto the slippery ice and try again.
*I realize that in this analogy I compared myself to God. I’m not entirely sure of the ethics of that, but I think it’s OK in this case.