by Dale Reeves
In 1990 Robert Matthew Van Winkle, a white rapper from Miami, Florida, released a hip-hop single that was the first rap song to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. For seven days of glory, the rapper better known as “Vanilla Ice” was number one. In his early teens, Van Winkle was struggling through the mire of who he was as a human, and he got started in his entertainment career by joining a breakdancing group where he was the only white boy. When “Ice Ice Baby” hit in October 1990, there was controversy about how Vanilla had lifted the bass line from rock group Queen and David Bowie’s song “Under Pressure.” Regardless, undoubtedly you either know the lyrics to this song, have danced to it at a wedding reception, or otherwise have not been able to avoid it.
One of the famous lines from “Ice Ice Baby” is this:
“If there was a problem, yo I’ll solve it.”
Today I want to dig into that phrase a bit as we contemplate what we can learn from ice.
Chipping Away One Piece at a Time
Just a little over a week ago Greater Cincinnati was pummeled with more ice than snow. We were expecting about a ½” of sleet, followed by several inches of snow. But in our area, I ended up with over an inch of sleet on my driveway that turned into ice, covered by two inches of snow. Shoveling the snow out of my driveway the next day after the storm was easy, but getting rid of the thick slabs of ice was quite a different story. In talking with my neighbors and friends, I found their experience to be exactly the same. I had a problem, and I “needed to solve it,” in the words of Vanilla Ice.
After I removed the layer of snow from the driveway, I spread as much snow melt as I had in my garage (a bag and a half), and then over the course of several days, I watched as God raised the air temperature a bit and provided some much-needed sun so that the ice would begin to melt enough so that I could start chipping away at the chunks of ice. For several afternoons in a row, I would go outside and shovel for about an hour, making a little more progress each day. The bottom of my driveway was packed down with ice thrown on it from snow removal trucks as well as the tracks of our cars coming and going. It would be the last part of my driveway that would be cleared. I noticed, however, that some of my neighbors didn’t tackle their driveways at all, but rather seemed paralyzed by the thick ice and just decided to stay inside, especially if they had the luxury of working from home.
Avoiding the Slippery Slope
Our church staff is currently studying a book together entitled, Creatures of Habit: Breaking the Habits Holding You Back from God’s Best. This book, authored by pastor Steve Poe, is helping us all take a hard look at some ingrained habits that we may have in areas of our lives like pride, anger, excuses, idolatry, etc. How do you truly change? How do you transform those areas of your life that you know you need to work on? It doesn’t happen just by praying and watching it magically happen overnight. It happens little by little, step by step, as you first own the issues that need to be resolved, then as you replace the bad habits with good habits on a consistent basis. You take a bite out of it one step at a time. You keep chipping away at it until you’ve cleared the driveway all the way down to the entrance to the road.
Have you ever looked in the mirror and asked yourself some hard questions like:
“How did I even get myself in this mess?”
“How did I just do something I said I would never do?”
“How can I find my way out of this huge problem now?”
The phrase “slippery slope” refers to an idea or course of action that will lead to something unacceptable, wrong, or disastrous. Taking the first wrong step can cause us to slip down the path even farther, and if you’re not careful you can hit a patch of ice in the driveway that causes you to fall down on your backside, or even worse, break a bone. There are little decisions we make every day that can impact the larger story of our life. We must choose wisely.
Stop, Collaborate, and Listen
This well-known phrase, “Stop, collaborate, and listen,” was part of the lyric in the song “Ice Ice Baby.” I think it’s pretty good advice for us when we are trying to solve a problem, trying to get out of an icy mess we find ourselves in. And, I have noticed that it’s something we can learn from the ducks and geese in the winter as well.
Have you ever noticed what ducks do on a frozen pond in the winter? If they have stayed up north and not migrated, they have learned the danger of not moving with the other ducks when a pond starts to freeze. If a duck chooses to go it alone, not following the others in the raft, the duck may find itself frozen in the pond because it didn’t move when it needed to. The smart ducks, however, “Stop, collaborate, and listen.” They hunker together in a place on the pond where they are safe from freezing in the ice. They know that they are better together.
One of the benefits of belonging to the church that Jesus founded is this: We have brothers and sisters in the body of Christ who can help us STOP and avoid the icy traps that our enemy wants to set before us. We have good friends who love Jesus and one another and are willing to COLLABORATE and help us walk through whatever icy conditions we are facing. If need be, they will help us chip away at the chunks in our lives that we know we need to get rid of. And, we who are part of the church together know that we will experience the best that life has to offer when we LISTEN to God’s voice, and move together as one. That’s God’s answer for tackling the ice storms that inevitably come our way. If there’s a problem, yo he’ll solve it, and he wants us to be part of the solution.
“He sends the snow like white wool; he scatters frost upon the ground like ashes. He hurls the hail like stones. Who can stand against his freezing cold? Then, at his command, it all melts. He sends his winds, and the ice thaws” (Psalm 147:16-18, NLT).