Photo: Adam Excell

To step out onto the ice

A reflection on vulnerability, compassion, God, and humanness

I’m thankful for the friends who went ice skating with me yesterday and literally came alongside me and patiently endured my bad skating. I saw God in this, and not just because it’s a nice friendship sort of thing.

All of us have moments in life in which we are in a higher position of status: socially, economically, intellectually, athletically, whatever. We’re more comfortable with the situation; we’re on the inside. But we all have moments in which we’re in a lower position: out of our comfort zone, insecure, unfamiliar, anxious, foreign, other, alone.

And I really do think all people have these moments of being in the lower position — or they actively avoid them. To be a beginner, to expose yourself to risk, is merely human. The most well-educated academic might be out of place at a dance party. The wealthy businessman might be out of place in the inner city. The Buddhist, Christian, and atheist might all be out of place visiting one another’s temple, church, and humanist community. The immigrant from Asia might be out of place coming to the United States, and vice versa. To avoid these moments is to maintain comfort but to miss out on the diverse experiences of life — and of God in life.

In the incarnation and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, Christians believe, God typifies a pattern on how to love as a friend, family member, or fellow human. It is, when finding yourself in that higher position, to not cling comfortably to it; to rather descend compassionately, selflessly, and often riskily, to come alongside those of a lower position and assist them. That is, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” But we need not die to see glimpses of this sacred pattern in daily life; we need only be on the giving or receiving end of an ice skating lesson.