Sunday, August 5, 2012

Empty chairs

I recently took a trip to Colorado to speak at a leadership meeting and retreat. After flying into Denver, I drove two hours into the ski areas west of the city where the meetings were being held. The drive was really beautiful; the sky was clear, bright and warm with temperatures in the low 70’s. But the real attraction to me was the mountains; they were magnificent.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like living in Lake Wales, FL and being near Iron Mountain, standing as one of the highest points in FL at 295 feet[1]. But this drive was through the teeth of the Rocky Mountains.   At one point I approached 10,000 feet above sea level on the drive as I passed the Continental Divide. You could smell the trees and clearly see the tree line on the mountains. There were also “chain-up areas” – added lanes on the highway to pull off during a snowstorm to put chains on your tires.

That first evening we had a fun outdoor event at a ski resort. We were in a small valley surrounded by “purple mountain majesty.” The sky was ablaze with crimson sunset watercolors that only God can paint. While there was no snow, the grounds were filled with children riding ponies (with their ever present biodegradable exhaust), putt-putt golf, rock climbing, fly fishing, eating popcorn and all sorts of great activities. It was so good to see families of all shapes and sizes walking, talking, and laughing together.

As I looked up at the mountains I could not help noticing all the ski lifts. They ran up the mountains in every direction. There was even a ski lift right next to a golf course. I’m sure that they took thousands up those mountains last season, giving delight and fun as skiers glided down the white powder with their family and friends.

Historical note – I have gone skiing once and only once in my life. I was able to walk away from it safely without the aid of crutches, ambulance or surgery. My most memorable event from that skiing trip was that I was careening down the mountain, moving faster than the law of physics or safety allowed. I saw a crowd of people in front of me that I was certain to shish kabob. Thinking with lightning speed, I turned right and, with deadly aim, plowed into a fluffy pine tree to break my fall, but not my face. As I collided with the tree, I grabbed it with all my might, sending down a giant shower of snow. My friends were so impressed with this display of skill that they all fell down off their skis laughing.

As I looked at the ski lifts I noticed that they were all stopped, and this made sense. It was in the middle of summer, it was warm, and there was no snow. Without snow there was no skiing, so running the ski lifts would have been a waste. I’m certain that they will transport thousands up the mountains this coming season.

But that’s not what ski lifts were made for. They were not made to sit still, they were made to move. They were not made to be empty; they were made to be full. They were not made to be alone; they were made to take people up the mountain. During the winter, they fulfilled their purpose and destiny. But during the summer, all they can do is sit around and wait.

I’ve recently been talking with people that resemble those ski lifts in summer. They sense that they have a purpose; they hope life has meaning, but right now things are at a standstill. Nothing seems to be moving; they feel like they are stuck and waiting for something or someone to get things moving forward again. I was listening to someone describe it as a “hole in their soul” where there was such an ache and emptiness.

If that’s how you feel, you are not alone. Not only are there people that feel the same way, but God understands your feelings too. When Jesus came to earth from the throne of heaven as our creator and savior, he left behind his rights as God and came as a person just like you and me[2]. He experienced all the same anguish and pain associated with this life[3]. And during his time on the cross, he also experienced separation from God as he paid the awful penalty for our rebellion and arrogance[4].

If you’re feeling like those ski lifts in summer, like you’re not fulfilling your purpose, remember that God loves you and deeply desires to have you run to him for comfort and assurance. As sure as winter is coming, and snow will cover the Rockies, he will come to you too and lift your spirits.

Blessings - Chet 

Chet Gladkowski writes and speaks on contemporary topics relating to life, culture and faith. - email, Facebook & Twitter - blog
GladAssociates - YouTube

[2] Philippians 2:5-8
[3] Hebrews 4:14-16
[4] Mark 15:34

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