This morning, I was walking nonchalantly along our front walkway when my foot hit a patch of ice, and down I went. It was only the second time in the 28 years that I’ve lived above the Mason-Dixon line that I have fallen from slipping on ice.
Because this morning’s fall (Did I mention that it was only my second one in 28 years?) landed me in the very deep snow just off the sidewalk, with my feet still on the ice, getting up from that fall was a challenge. I reminded myself of Randy, the little brother in “A Christmas Story,” who goes down in his bulky coat and struggles to get back up. I could hear Ralphie saying, “Mark lay there like a slug; it was his only defense.”
In retrospect, I’m reminded of how we believers can easily slip and fall into sin if we fail to walk carefully in our spiritual walks. In Ephesians 5:15-16, Paul, after telling us to walk as children of light and to take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, tells us to look carefully how we walk, not as unwise, but as wise. In other words, walk carefully. Peter echoes this idea when he says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith…” (1 Peter 5:8-9a).
If we do not take care how we walk – if we are not on our guard – we can become susceptible to a spiritual fall into sin. And like a roaring lion springing from the dense jungle – or like an unseen patch of ice – it can seem to come out of nowhere. It doesn’t matter how infrequently we may have slipped up and gone down in the past; that patch of ice sits there today and is just waiting for a careless foot to slip on it.
As I mentioned, getting up from the snow on my own was difficult, and for a moment I wondered if I would be down for awhile. When we sin, there is one way to get back on our feet and back into a walk with Christ, and that is to confess our sin to God (1 John 1:9). The sin has already been paid for by Christ on the cross, but it can keep us down in a joyless, ineffective place if we fail to own up to it before God. We need to call it what it is: sin. Our pride sometimes wants to explain sin away – to give God all the “good” reasons we have for doing what did (e.g., “Did you see what that guy did to me???”). But sin is sin and needs to be confessed as such lest we find ourselves continuing to slip and slide on the snow and ice as we spew out our self-justifications.
Once we are back up and walking on, we may discover firsthand the truth that falls often have consequences. Getting back on our feet doesn’t always take those consequences away. As I type this, I have a slight muscle pain over the left side of my rib cage from the twisting action that was involved in my trying not to go down. I also had to deal with burning cold on my right hand for awhile from the time that hand spent in the snow as I tried to push myself back up. Spiritual falls have consequences, too. Our sin may have been paid for by Christ, and we may have confessed it to God, but there may still be consequences to what we have done. We must face those humbly in the strength of the Lord, walking on with Him, and taking careful steps as we move forward. We will find that, whatever the consequences may be, God has not abandoned us, and He has “grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). And many times we will find that He cleans up an awful lot of the messes we make. Hopefully, we will learn some lessons and will walk on with care.