04 May 2017

When Life Gets Tough, Will I Remain?

Her arms were shaking violently. Her facial cheeks bounced with the rhythm of the bumpy trail that lie just below her. Her expression conveyed anger, insecurity. Words of complaint rolled from her tongue as her bicycle rolled along the rock laden path. “daddy, I don’t think I can do this” she expressed with shaky voice and wavering emotion. Her determination however demanded that her eyes focused intently on the narrow trail set before her, until hesitation mixed with doubt caused her to stop the bike in protest and to stand up in a straddle over it, and to stare me down. “Honey, you can do it, just follow me and I promise, we’ll have a great ride”, I said in a gentle but nudging tone.

At those words and with renewed trust won, she once again mounted her bike and pressed feet to peddle. We were off again on the bike ride we had planned for weeks. My daughter and I were now enjoying an adventure we both had looked forward to—-time with just her and I. But the difficulty she was having surprised me, I had no intention of putting her through such a challenging ride, which turned out to be cycling on an new level for my daughter, who was 8 at the time. As we rode through the narrow dirt path speckled with protruding rocks, cracks in thirsty soil and high weeds on both sides, she remained challenged to stay steady while avoiding every obstacle.

Finally we were on the last stretch of the ride, it was a paved portion of the trail I had mapped out for us, and she was overtly grateful. It was her first ride on a public street without training wheels or that half-bike thing that attaches to the back of an adult bike. This was the real thing, and the empowerment she’d received as a result caught me off-guard, but moved me. She began to utter things like “wow, this is a dream come true, I can’t believe I’m doing this”, perhaps it was her “ride-of-passage”.

When the ride was over, she displayed a sense of accomplishment and empowerment that I had not seen in her before. “Dad, that was the most amazing ride ever” she expressed slightly out of breath but clearly elated. As we were taking our gear off and putting the bikes on the back of our SUV, she asked me “How long was that ride daddy, it must have been two or three hours right?” It was actually only 28 minutes. When I told her that, her eyes widened and her mouth swung open, no sound this time.

On the way home we enjoyed ice cream cones with windows down and music blaring. Then it dawned on me just how our bicycle ride closely mimicked the way God wants to take you and me through this life. For a little while He suspends us somewhere between complacency and destruction. Predictability and the extreme of shock. Easy street and one just too bumpy to continue on. The ride gets rough at times, but he alone knows how to get us through, even forget the pain the rock laden path may have caused. The path he takes us on is one we would never choose for ourselves, and we often feel we can’t take it, that things are just too difficult, and yet when we get through it, and as a result we’re empowered beyond what we thought possible. This is the reward for those who stay with God, no matter what. And I have found, this is the way He loves.

In this great love, God knows how to provide a life that sets our table somewhere between boredom and tragedy; perhaps the place at which authentic adventure is found. Our life is hard, but fulfilling, rattling to our soul, but empowering. Uncomfortable but promoting. Scary at times but exhilarating. Only a brilliant and loving God can fine tune our lives with such incredible detail, such insane specificity, all the while honoring our free will. He knows our personal perimeters, our sensitivities, our fears and our limitations. But it’s all a part of the recipe for the life He’s ordained for each of us. He’s gentle, but He knows if He doesn’t push us now and then or put us through some challenging stuff, we’ll never experience the empowerment and the thrill of going to the next level. When I view my struggles through this lens, I have a very different attitude about them, a perspective of great hope in the midst of some tough issues, hope then rises. The more I trust Him and bring everything to Him, the more I tend to wait on His outcome, which never disappoints. It’s tough at times, I don’t like the bumps, but somehow it always addresses the things in me that need addressing, and I’m always smiling when the ride is over.