Who Taught You to Ride?

Did the kid who left his bike in a gutter flowing with water get in trouble?

(If my bike had been outside overnight, I would’ve met the wrath of my parents!)

Kynzi and I hurried down a street early in the morning and there was the red bicycle, its training wheels attached.

My parents, like the generations of parents before them, bought me a tricycle when I was a munchkin. Easy to ride, easy to pedal, easy to supervise. Though I’m sure I flipped the darn trike over, it was a clunky and safe introduction to pedal power. Then came a real, live bicycle—with trainer wheels! Some skip this step, but I had those bonus “wings” for my earliest adventures. Up and down the block! From my house to a friend’s house! Mom or Dad often trotted nearby.

But then the wheels came off.

Odd that I don’t remember, but was it me begging for their removal or did my parents deem I was ready for wheeled freedom?

Odd that I do remember what happened. Mounting the smallish bike without any safety features, I took off pedaling. Furiously. And stayed upright! Around and around I went, pedals whirring to drive the chain, every well-oiled gear and sturdy Schwinn part doing its job. It was all me, a boy with boyish muscles zooming forward. Watch out world!

I roared across the driveway, skittered around the garage, careened toward the backyard lawn and then, emboldened with success (and running out of turning room), I applied the brakes.

And fell on my face.

The second my eager young legs reversed the pedal to apply the braking motion, I went from wild child riding the wind to a dumb kid reintroduced to gravity.

Ba-boom!!

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What was your first bike? Brand new? Borrowed? Hand-me-down? With a “banana seat?” One speed or ten? Can you recall the color?

Who taught you to ride? You, because you wanted to? Mom or Dad? An older sibling, who slipped in a few humiliating experiences to remind you he or she was large and in charge?

How often did you fall in those first attempts? Never? Just a few times? Or did a first fall, or a bicycle’s requirement of physical effort, soon cause those two wheels to gather dust and spider webs? Instead, you longed for the birthday licensing you for a different kind of pedal power!

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Until March of 2015—with a few exceptions—I biked a lot. I rode to school for years. Though eschewing bikes for the college years, I quickly reclaimed riding as a young adult. Eventually, though not a bicycle addict like some I’ve known, I owned multi-geared, lightweight touring bikes. I’ve put in a lot of pavement miles, with only a few nasty falls. How I enjoyed—especially on the hottest of summer days—creating my own wind-chill factor while cruising streets simmering with heat.

The last bike ride I took was March of 2015. Why exactly then? We got a dog. Worse, we got a puppy! The intense time of helping Kynzi—and us—survive the puppy months limited my extra activities. Unfortunately, our sweet, silly Kynzi had physical flaws. Guiding her through many trips to the vet, and finally to a surgeon that repaired elbow dysplasia in her front left leg, meant additional months of restrictions, including limiting my “free time.”

Is more bicycling in my future? Probably. But I’m older now, crankier in attitude, and my elbows are the only semi-working joints that don’t hurt!

Walking with the dog is darn fun and I don’t regret not biking. (Mostly, I don’t.)

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And so, I spot this kid’s bike, likely left out overnight. Since I try to write about faith, about the ways of the Holy, what does biking have to do with God? Religion? My beliefs or yours?

Not much. And yet just enough.

Picture me on that first rousing, trainer-wheel-free romp. There I go! I have become too fast for my parents to trot alongside to give me aid and balance. On my own, I’m learning to stay upright, to keep moving forward. I get to feel freedom. I get to relish the breeze.

I am in charge!

And then I tumble.

If I honestly examine the story of my faith—so far—I feel the falls the most. One of the earliest (and serious) public vows to God I made was at my first and worst wedding. Five years after pledging a “forever love” in God’s name, I was divorced Larry. Fallen. The cruelest experience in ministry was when a clergy with authority over me . . . lied about me. Deceit. It’s easy to think we’re upright, balanced, and moving forward until the collapse comes.

Someone or something will always jam on the brakes. Being upright is easy . . . until it isn’t. If gravity doesn’t get us, greed, selfishness, happenstance, neglect, or arrogance will.

How blessed I’ve been to have family, friends, and colleagues that helped me survive a divorce and career crisis . . . and more. How blessed to sense that even when wondering why God had abandoned me, I realized (just enough) that it was more me abandoning God. For my way of faith, variations of the biking questions can reveal our tumble-down-and-rise-again belief.

What was the first time that faith felt real for you?

Who taught you the best parts of faith?

How often did you fall? And then what happened?

If truthfully answered, you’ll provide a glimpse of who you were, and of who you are becoming.

Isn’t faith balance and moving forward? Isn’t faith that wondrous combination of physical activity and the stillness of open eyes alert to what’s before you? Isn’t faith, for all our complicated theology, petty divisions among denominations, and old, odd traditions, about as uncomplicated as pedals linked to a wheel?

What is loving your neighbor as yourself other than the simplest, most unfettered way to stay upright and to move toward God’s Realm of Love?

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