Bicycle balance

There’s that feeling of when the bike could fall left or fall right.  I start to feel like I might fall to the right, and I pull hard to try to get it back on balance, and I crash.

Later, I learn to steer more gently.  It’s still struggle.  The bike still swerves right or swerves left.  I still feel like I could lose balance and topple over, but I’m getting more confident.

And then I get really good.  I mean, I can ride my bike up and down the parking lot.  So I wave in pride, and the handlebars swerve and I topple to the blacktop.

And then I get humbler.  Ride more like a learner than a teacher.  Start trying for uphill.  The hope is for the downhill.  I press on the pedals, and that’s all easy on the flat top.  But then I start the climb and I start pushing harder on those pedals.  But it’s still not too bad.  I can push through it.  But this hill seems to be getting taller and taller.  It is a hot day and I am hot.  The sun is melting my tires and growing the hill.  I am shoving the pedals down now, and my legs tremble.  I have to try to stand up.  I stand and I push and push and I get to that point when I know I am not going to make it, and the bike is tottering like stilts in gator water, and I cannot steady it.  I fall off, and I am wearing my helmet, but this time I get a scar on my knee that lasts and even now I still have it.

Over time, I can ride my bike through the neighborhood.  (I can even learn to make it up that hill.  I think.)  I ride farther.  I no longer worry all the time about the bike tipping me over on my head like a pebble in an upside-down Coke bottle.  But every once in a while, when I think about what I’m doing–balancing my weight on two thin wheels–I often start to tilt.

I still have a surprising spill at least once.  My helmet cracks that pavement and absorbs the first roar of shock for me and I don’t even wind up with a scratch on my noggin.

I can look around now, feel the breeze swim over me, feel the satisfaction of taking myself somewhere.

If I stay in my neighborhood, the challenge is pretty much over.  Sure, there can be a surprise here and there–but it’s not likely.

But if I go outside of what I’ve already learned, if I keep going, I find hills against which I’ve not been tested[1] . . slopes so exciting and so easy I can race out of control and flip my bike over going down them . . curves in the road tighter than I’ve ever turned.  As long as I keep biking, the adventure’s not over.  The adventure’s never over.  As long as I keep biking.

I forgot what it was like to bike until a few days ago when I rode a rented bike in Florida for the first time in years.  The memories came back to me as I biked and as I watched a new biker learning how to ride.  The funny thing about biking is, you never really learn it.  You can always go steeper, deeper, longer, curvier, and on a new kind of terrain.  You can always find something you can’t yet do, but you might be able to if you keep holding tight to those handlebars, keep pedaling with those sneakered feet, keep wearing that helmet.

I realize now how biking is a 6-year-old’s prep for what a relationship will be like when you find your knight in shining armor (or, for you guys out there, your fair maiden).

I’m almost 30, and I’m in my first long-term relationship.  My first!

There are times I feel that uneasy wobble I felt as a kid riding her first bike without training wheels.  There are times I feel like I’m gonna crash.  There are times I feel like I’ve got it: I’m an expert and I’m ready to write seven marriage books about it, I’ve just gotta wait until I get married.  And always–before I get to sign my autograph on my imaginary marriage book for a long line of imaginary, eager women in an imaginary, elite bookstore– I nosedive to the black top and only my helmet saves me . . and I see I didn’t have the whole in-a-relationship ride so balanced as I thought.

A relationship is one of those things, that, if you look at it, it seems like a miracle that it could ever work, like two thin wheels holding your whole weight up as you soar up and down hills.  And whenever I find I can start to feel the breeze and start to see the sights, I always find there’s something a bit harder up ahead.

That’s just exactly how it is.  It’s challenging.  It’s an adventure.  It’s . . learning.  Not how to pedal a two-wheeler.  How to love a soulmate.

And there’s this . . excitement.  This . . zeal.  And this . . fear.  This . . uncertainty.  At times, this dread of the next hill.  At times, this overwhelming joy and fright that the next valley is gonna cause your wheels to go airborne and you to go sprawling.  At times, this weariness that there is always that next hill.  And at times, this thrill that there is always that next hill.

There’s this . . work.  This work that is this rush of scary pedaling and wobbly lurching and humiliating falling.  This work that is this rush of delight for the road ahead and adrenaline-filled breathing for the challenge and foot-spinning love for the pedals.  This work that is this rush.

I couldn’t do it without my helmet.  If I didn’t have Jesus to absorb the first shock wave of every fall, I wouldn’t even want to ride my bike.  I’d be content to roll my bike along as I walked beside.  But I do have Jesus who promises me that He won’t let any fall happen to me unless He can use it to help me bike better.  I might skin my knee–okay, I will skin my knee–but I won’t bust my head open.  He is my helmet.

I’ve never gotten to go on this ride before.

I love this ride.

Thank You, Jesus, for this ride.

Thank You for not giving up on this girl even way after the years where she shouldn’t be needing training wheels, and teaching her how to ride in the winds of Your grace . . alongside a soul mate who’s learning, too (but a lot better at it).

To Ben.  I love you, my biking buddy.  I love that you wear your helmet and remind me that I have one, too, and that it will be okay.

The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again. (Proverbs 24:16a, NLT)

Put on salvation as your helmet (Ephesians 6:17a, NLT)

“I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

(Jesus’ promise to those who receive His salvation, Matthew 28:20b, NLT)


[1] An idea from something Gandalf says in the first LOTR movie about facing enemies against which he has never been tested.

Published in: on March 17, 2013 at 9:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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