Running Up the Slide

I don’t remember what boy taught me how to run up a slide.  But I was a fast learner.

I was the kid who climbed on top of the playhouse, the monkey bars, and up the tree.  And I was the kid who leaped out of swings to earn the “Olympic” rating of 10 from friends.

The boy who climbed up the slide showed me how.  He took a deep breath.  And then, he ran up the slide.

This is what he taught me as I admired and interviewed him as to how such a thing was possible:

  1. You get a running start.
  2. You don’t slow down when you get to the edge of the bottom of the slide.
  3. You jump on the slide and you keep on running.
  4. You just do it.

You might fall flat on your nose and you might bust open your lip, but if you are going to run up a slide, you make a commitment to it.  And then you do it.  You run up the slide.

Most kids won’t do it.  Most kids will cower down and grab the sides for help.  Most kids will lose heart when it gets really steep and slide down as they fumble for the slide sides.

The way you make it up a slide is, you don’t give yourself that option.  You tell yourself you’re going to stay upright.  You tell yourself you’re going to keep running.  And if you fall, it’s gonna be bad.  But you’re willing to take that chance.

I was timid at first.  The steep part was really hard.  But I started running higher and higher up the slide before I gave up.  And then there came the time when I fully committed.  I made up my mind: I was running up that slide, the whole slide, even the super steep part . . . or I was gonna bust my head trying.

I took that big breath you have to take if you’re really going to run up a slide for real, and I took off running.  I jumped on the bottom of the slide and I ran.  I ran and I ran, and when I got to that part, that really steep part, when it just seems like there’s no way you can keep running without your feet flying out from under you, I ran.  I ran!  I RAN!  I RAN!!!!!!!!!!!

There’s that sudden realization when your foot (and you gotta be barefoot to do this), hits the very steepest part because you’ve been very brave, and you know you have your footing, and you know you’re going to make it to the peak.  That’s the best part.  That’s why you run up slides.

I made it to that part, and I had that split-second of realization that I was going to make it.  And then my other foot was on the top of the slide.  And then I was standing standing at the top of the platform.  And then the boy who had coached me was jumping around cheering, bragging about how he’d been my teacher.  And then the kid who made it up rooted me on and the one who got close to making it up rooted me on . . . and all the little kids who hadn’t been able to make it up gazed up at me in deference.

And that started my career in slide running.

You might be wondering if I ever had a catastrophe in my slide running career.  Oh yes, I did.  I fell one time close to the top and–this is what happens when you fully commit to something and you mess up–I fell on my face.  I busted my lip open.

I don’t think my mother even tried to convince me not to climb up slides.  She knew it was useless.  When my father came home from work, he was upset over my busted lip and he did try to convince me, but I begged and begged and begged and begged and begged and begged and begged and begged and begged and–guess what else I did?–begged, and he said, all right then.

So I kept climbing up slides.

It was scary the first time after busting my lip open, but, oh well.  That’s the chance you take when you climb up slides.

Little did I know back then that climbing up slides would, some 20 or so years later, become a way for me to learn a little bit about what faith is like.

Following Christ is a little like running up a slide.  The world is turned against God.  It’s a hard thing–it even seems crazy sometimes–to be running for Him.  Paul talks about this great race, and he knew it was not without its troubles, pain, and dilemmas.  But Paul kept running anyway.

I had just a few kids watching me, but Paul knew the world was watching him.  He wrote:

Therefore, having so vast a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, and throwing off everything that hinders us and especially the sin that so easily entangles us, let us keep running with endurance the race set before us, fixing our attention on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of the faith, who, in view of the joy set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2, ISV)

Paul knew it just couldn’t get any better than following after the path Jesus had made, even if his culture was going in the opposite direction, even if the incline of commitment seemed impossibly steep . . . the climb was worth every moment.  He knew what was waiting at the top: Heaven, yes, but that is just the scenery.  It wasn’t what was waiting at the top that made Paul run in spite of persecution, starvation, and even when his friends abandoned him.  No, it was who was waiting at the top. 

Jesus made the climb worth everything.

We don’t get to Heaven and we don’t become friends of Jesus by proving we are courageous, however.  If we had to earn our salvation by our bravery, the only human being who would populate Heaven would be Jesus.  We aren’t made right by God by any daring thing we could do.  That’s because, on our own, not one of us can climb our way into Heaven.  The only path is holiness, and we are not holy.

Our friendship with Jesus is a free gift given to us through the cross.  Jesus reconciled us to Him.  So when we accept Jesus’ reconciliation, He clears us to enter Heaven.

For the believer, the slide we climb in this life isn’t about earning God’s approval or the applause of those watching from the bottom.  The slide we climb is simply the act of fully committing ourselves to Jesus Christ.  We might sin and fall flat on our faces, but the good news is Jesus is not only at the top of the slide, but He is also beside us, encouraging us forwards.  And when we give everything to Him, we find not that we earned salvation, but that He has saved our life.

At the end of my life, I want to be able to say what Paul said:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. (2 Timothy 4:7, NLT)

 

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