Thin Ice

Many years ago, on a very cold day it snowed, and I did not have to go to school. That sentence alone makes this a happy story. Snow days were the highlight of the winter. It was as though someone granted us a spontaneous holiday. It was a reprieve from the classroom. To us it seemed that we learned more about life by jointly exploring a fresh and quiet new world covered in snow than we would have ever learned in a school building. There are very few adventures in a school building. Upon discovering our new fortune for the day my brother and I went on a walk in the snow. Other children, some still in pajamas, were coming out to see the liberator (the snow) which allowed us this one day of freedom.  Thus, we met our friend Charlie who was ready to join us to see the world as arctic explorers. We were fearless. We felt unstoppable with the energy of boyish youth inspired by the snowy wild. And we were unstoppably stupid. That could prove to be a terrible mix. It is only by the longsuffering of God that we all walked back home.

I was the youngest of the three. Charlie was a year older but must larger. He was easily thirty pounds heavier than me. My brother was older still and weighed even more. We tromped our way through the snow into the woods and across hills and pastures. The sky was gray, the wind was kicking, the earth was white, and the lakes were frozen… Here is where trouble began.  Yep, it was irresistible. To an unstoppable ten-year-old boy there is no danger in nature. There is no thought as to what could happen or what it could do to you. I was the lightest, so I ventured out first. The ice cracked under every step. We did not realize that was a very bad sign. For future reference: never walk on any ice that makes a noise. It is too thin. I went out a few steps and then back to the bank. Charlie was highly competitive. He could not be outdone. He stepped onto the lake and went a few feet further. My brother stayed on the shore like a news crew waiting for an imminent disaster. I was not as competitive as Charlie, but I loved irritating those who are. If I surpassed his farthest point, then he would be predictably compelled to go even further. In this game I had the advantage. I was lighter. I knew wherever he went was safe for me. He could only hope that wherever I went was safe for him.

Charlie and I ventured further and further as we crossed the lake. We had to stay a safe distance from each other because our combined weight would be too much for the ice which became darker with water visibly rippling below it. We had no idea how deep the lake was, how difficult it would be to get out if we fell in, or at what point the ice would fail. All the while we sang songs and hoped to get across the lake without getting wet. I was ahead of Charlie by about fifty feet and was getting close to the bank. The ice was significantly thinner on this side. In the very last step to shore my feet went through the ice. The water there was only ankle deep so I easily walked right onto the bank. This was bad news for Charlie. I left broken ice behind me. Its integrity, which was questionable to begin with, was now compromised. My brother looked at Charlie and said, “If he can’t make it, you can’t make it.” Charlie took about two more steps and down he went with a crack and a splash up to his belly. He made his way up and out breaking ice and splashing dirty lake water as he came. Yep, this was better than school.

What this ten-year-old boy did reflects what adults do in a more dangerous game. The game is simple: How far can you go away from God’s word and still be pleasing to Him? God set the limits and I will test the limits. Do we ever see the seriousness of our situations? Playing games with God or testing God’s patience is never a winning plan. God’s word is always solid ground. Why test to see how far you can go away from center and still be safe? Why venture when eternity is looming? Why venture and claim any faith or love for God? With God there is no uncertain step, there is no thin ice. We can rest assured that each step with God is entirely safe, and right and good.

Deuteronomy 5:32-33 “Therefore you shall be careful to do as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess.”

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