I just got back from a 6 km Nordic ski jaunt. I hadn’t been on skis since 1998, so this was a real treat. My trip was marked not only by the sheer joy of the sport and the beauty of the afternoon, but by a remark made by the male component of a couple of young lovers out for a winter stroll. As I went whizzing past them (“whizzing” sounds considerably more sporting than “wheezing”) he exclaimed, “Now that’s the way to get around!”
This in marked contrast to the remark that ended my short-lived downhill career. After watching me careen like a madman down an icy slope on a youth group outing in Nova Scotia, a teenage girl–no Lindsey Vonn herself, by any stretch, and our guest, no less–remarked at supper, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone ski quite like you do.” It was at this point I decided that, despite my natural need for speed, cross-country was the way to go.
Though Ottawa has many groomed trails, we haven’t had enough snow yet to get the grooming sleds out. But at least one other skier had already been there today, so I planted my skis in his or her tracks and away I went. Following someone else’s grooves is the way to go if the trail is not groomed and if one does not have back country equipment–in most cases, that is. If the trail is crisscrossed by wolf tracks and bloodstains, one might rethink one’s route. Other warnings of possible danger might be a 15-metre circle of cleared ground–a telltale sign of a recent MedEvac–or grooves leading into a large snow bank with no discernible exit point. But if their grooves are well-cut and evenly spaced, following in someone else’s tracks is the easiest way to enjoy a cross-country ski trail.
Which leads me to my thoughts as I glided happily along. This principle of following someone else’s tracks has a spiritual counterpart. In 1 Cor 10.11, Paul writes, ” Now these things happened to them [Old Testament characters] as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” (ESV, emphasis mine) Follow the grooves, Paul says, but keep an eye out for bloodstains and snowbanks.
Later, in 2 Tim 3.10, Paul reminds Timothy, “You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra–which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.” (ESV) That verb, “followed”, is a loaded one. Remember how many times Jesus said, “Follow me”, when He called His disciples? This word is a stronger form of the same verb that actually means, “carefully followed” or “followed in my tracks.”
It’s a pity so many Christians are so abysmally ignorant of the Old Testament when the New Testament that they claim to believe exhorts them to learn from the Old. And in the discipleship process, which is the heart of the Great Commission, the way to progress toward Christlikeness is by following someone else’s tracks.
On skis and in life, it’s a great way–the best way–to get around.