Posted by: Kara Luker | May 11, 2021

Fixing our gaze

During my ski lesson in Mammoth, while practicing on the beginners hill alongside Chase and other wee people, my instructor, Irina, tasked me with some gentle turns. I found that despite my hearty efforts, more often than not my skis would stubbornly refuse my attempts to redirect them. The problem, Irina explained, is that you are looking in the wrong direction; toward where you are going rather than where you want to be.  “Look where you want to go,” she emphasized, “and your skis will follow.”

This seemed like lame advice, along the lines of wishful thinking, but I clearly wasn’t the expert in this scenario so I decided to give it a try. The next time I went down, instead of looking at the cone I was about to knock over or at my uncooperative right ski, I fixed my gaze ahead where I wanted to be. To my great surprise and delight, and with very little effort, my skis went right where I was looking. It seemed so magically simple, I couldn’t help but giggle.

When reflecting on the experience after our return home, I googled the advice and quickly came upon this passage from “Think of your gaze as a steering wheel. A good way to get better at skiing is to gaze continuously in the direction you want to go in. Beginners tend to look down when they ski, out of fear. From now on, try to direct your gaze up and in front of you to where you want to go.”

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times

Clearly, this is a common problem among new skiers who find this focus correction counterintuitive, and common knowledge among the more experienced who have established a habit of it. This reminds me of Paul’s advice in Hebrews that tells us to keep “our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end” and in Philippians to “fix our thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.” I’m guessing that for many (or most), Paul’s counsel might seem lame (can anyone say wishful thinking?), oversimplified or utterly counterintuitive. 

Maybe it sounds nice in theory while we are sitting in church or on the bunny slope, but what about when we are out there on the mountain heights, alone, with the cold wind whipping our face as we barrel toward some immovable obstacle or terrifying cliff? We could be facing grief, sickness, addiction or hardship… crushingly negative news or a diagnosis that defies hope… the pain or struggle of someone we love and feel powerless to help. Sometimes it’s just the daily grind of living in a fallen world. The great temptation is to look directly at the problem, causing its size to increase in our vision, perhaps accompanied by choice words or frightened screams, until we smack right into it. It can be incredibly discouraging because it’s not where we wanted to go; especially so when we have earnestly believed for something better.

But if we will fix our eyes on Jesus, instead of strenuous effort with no results, the whole orientation of our lives will turn toward the place of hope and healing where we most want to be. It’s not that the obstacles or dangers cease to exist, but that they will lose their power to draw our attention and redirect our path.

When I lost my son, Cole, a few years ago, I was fortunate to have walked with the Lord long enough to have established the muscle memory of looking to Him. When sorrow threatened to overwhelm me and pain stabbed my heart, I looked to Jesus. When grief tried to define me and self-pity raised its loud voice, I looked to Jesus. When I longed to see my sweet boy again, I looked to Jesus. None of this was done expertly by any stretch. Sometimes I crashed and fell and got hurt. I would sit there, dazed and frustrated, and then look to Jesus. 

As was the case during that ski lesson, to my great surprise, I have found myself heading exactly where I want to be. But instead of ending up at the bottom of a bunny slope, it was right into the arms of Jesus, the place of all hope and healing. Not because I was trying so hard or because I was zealous enough, but because my gaze was set in the right direction and my life has followed. It’s not that I have completely “arrived,” but I have been recently shocked to realize how light my heart and unclouded my joy have become. No longer do I feel like this loss defines me or that my trust in God’s ability to save is fragile. He has led me down the steepest of mountains and I am more convinced than ever that all who fix their eyes on Him will find themselves led safely through every obstacle, no matter how threatening, and made completely whole in Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.

Photo credit: Durango Herald

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