My Kairos Prison Ministry brothers and I, who visit with inmates and have fellowship with them, have freedoms because we are on the outside that they do not have since they are on the inside. But—just like them on the inside—we are confined by walls. Just like them, we are confined by the walls of our sin.
Yes, we can walk out our front doors, get in our cars, and drive up into the mountains in order to walk miles through a forest and listen to birds sing. They can’t do that.
But I tell you, readers, we may drive back to our houses and park our cars and walk back in through our front doors and find ourselves confined by the walls of our sin.
Inside our houses there may be relationship problems with our wives or our children that are persistent. There may be a health problem that frightens us. There may be a financial problem that wears us down. There may be a work problem we have no knowledge how to fix. There may be an addiction problem that forces us to act in a way that is disrespectful of God.
Inside our houses, inside that wide world that appears to be open and free to us, we are confined by the walls of our sin.
WHY ARE WE CONFINED BY THE WALLS OF OUR SIN?
We Christians know that Satan exists. He’s why we are confined by the walls of our sin. Satan has existed since the Garden of Eden, and he will exist until he is thrown down in fire by Jesus at the end of the world. His purpose is to create pain and discord and hatred—and then, having been successful, to create even more pain and discord and hatred—among all of the people.
Ultimately he seeks to overthrow God Himself. He wants to BE God.
He cannot overthrow God because God wins. He cannot BE God because God already IS…and because God wins. But in the meantime, Satan can make us writhe with pain and misery and make us blast out at one another in sin-filled ways.
Satan’s power is formidable. But ultimately he is a loser.
All he can provide is hatred and fear and pain. Hatred and fear and pain LOSE in the face of what the Christian Trinity provides, which is love and forgiveness and peace.
So why are we confined by the walls of our sin?
Because there is—and there will be—a struggle within us to do good when we are enticed by Satan to do bad.
Until we find salvation in Christ Jesus, we feel an URGENCY to do bad. It is an URGENCY to hurt—either other people, or ourselves, or God Himself. When we do find salvation in Christ Jesus, immediately our URGENCY disappears.
We still sin—I DO—but our URGENCY to sin disappears.
We are still confined by the walls of our sin—but we are safer, as saved people, within those walls than we were before we were saved.
Stay with me now…
It’s cold outside while I write this. Apparently, it’s cold everywhere while I write this. When you read this, on Saturday or after, it’s not going to be as cold outside as it is today. Today at dawn it was 9 degrees here on the Blue Ridge.
But here’s the thing. I’m thinking about the cold because our son Sam and I are attending another Special Olympics ski meet next Monday and Tuesday in northern Virginia—time trials Monday; races Tuesday. Hoping forward, I’d love some of this cold air to hang around until then, to keep the snow harder, easier to turn on, faster.
But no. The current prediction for those two days is high 50s/low 60s and showers about 40% of the time.
Now, Sam has done well on wet, sloppy snow that clogs his skis on the slalom turns—three weeks ago in North Carolina, on that same sort of snow, he came away with a silver medal at his competition level.
But skiing in that kinda snow just ain’t any fun.
Now, maybe you are a reader who doesn’t care a fig about skiing, but hang on a moment—I’m getting to something.
At many times in my past life, particularly before our children were in their teens and needed me to ski with them as they improved, I skied by myself very aggressively, although I never formally raced.
Here’s the “something” I am getting to. Many of you readers—skiers or not--you may have had similar pleasures, when you were young. But now you have put them aside, and they have gathered dust—as my skis did—in the barn. There was never quite enough time to drive to the mountain. There was never quite enough money to afford the expense.
Here’s what I conjure for you. I conjure that you stop. I conjure that you come with me on a trip to the mountain—to your mountain—wherever that is, right now. Reach out—let’s do it—right now, let’s reach out for muscle memory.
I snapped my ski boots shut, stamped into my bindings, and poled/skated my way to the lift at the bottom of the mountain. The chair swung round—I was a solo this time—and I sat. I pulled down the bar, settled my skis on the footrest, and looked around. The sky was clear in northern Maine, and the trees all around were rimed thick with ice. It was cold, cold, cold—ten degrees and a twenty mile NW wind, making it seem as though it was about fifteen below. I pulled my balaclava up over my nose and cheekbones, glad I had my ear warmer snug round my head under my woolen watch cap. Loved my minus-twenty parka and mittens.
I reached the top and dismounted smoothly, slowed to a stop. There was an operator inside the upper hut, secured away, maybe with a kerosene heater. His eyes and mine met for a second. Yes, I tried to signal to him, I’m good for this. Hope you are, he seemed to answer, and his eyes shifted away.
I studied the trail map—black-diamond trail or a more moderate blue? I’ll return for that black diamond, I thought, but I need the slower beginning, the reaching for muscle memory, the remembering that my next big birthday is seventy now and no longer thirty-five. And the blue trail winds along the ridge to the north, seems to dip and then flatten, dip and then flatten—that would be good.
I picked blue. I started down. It was a long, broad run, a good one to wake up upon. Muscle memory is a wonderful thing: if you had it once, you’ll have it now.
Halfway down that first tentative run all diffidence blew away. Deliberately, I set my downhill inside edge, forced my knees into the hill, bore forward with my downhill ankle…and steered a course closer to the fall-line, shot forward, nearly doubled my speed. From then on, with my mind plucked out, it was a dance, every muscle falling familiarly back into its racing place, attacking the hill.
I reached the bottom, winded and sore of thigh. But I had been relieved also of quotidian duty, for a moment, which had been plucked away from me, this once. I was relieved that I could still carve five or six perfect turns, each one increasing my speed by a percentage, each turn wrenching out a fear and leaving it behind me to shiver in the snow.
Do—you—the same, my friend.
What do you fear? What bears you down, as you age? What brings you despair? What leaps out at you when you encounter it and, this time, shrieks at you—‘NO YOU CANNOT!’
That is Satan.
He may have been the greatest of the angels, but he is FALLEN.
He wants to--
Don’t you let him. He is fallen. God is on YOUR side.
…and God wins.
Reader, I want to look behind me on our next ski run together and to see you, smiling as broad as heaven, carving your turns, transported, over your wall of limitations!
Ah! Won’t that be blessed!
Reader, go ski your own mountain. Attack your own hill.