On Tuesday afternoon, Molly and the kids sat on the front porch. Our oldest, Tai, was sitting with her reading a book. Tai was also watching the neighborhood kids ride their bikes up and down Hill Street. Suddenly, Tai said, “Mom, I’m ready to start learning to ride a bike.”
We’ve learned that Tai only does things when he’s good and ready. Sure, we have had to twist his arm on a few things, but most of the time, if we just let him, he’ll come around on most everything.
So when I got home from work that night, Tai ran up to me and said, “I want to learn to ride a bike!” We had an old bike under the house that our neighbor gave us for just this occasion, so I pulled it out and pumped up the tires.
I’ve never taught anyone to ride a bike before, so I really had no idea how to approach this. It’s funny when you just “know” how to do something, it’s difficult to explain.
“Ok…put your feet on the peddles. Do NOT take your feet off the peddles. Keep your eyes straight…NO…don’t look down at the peddles. It’s all about balance, really. You have to just ‘feel it.'”
Starting off, I stood beside him with my hands on the bars and the back of the seat. Tai is not a “rough and tumble” kind of kid, and knowing that this exercise would mean some bumps and bruises, I wanted to start off careful, lest he give up too soon. Also, the part of me that never wants my son to be hurt took control as well.
I got him used to being on the bike but he just wasn’t getting the balance…or the steering…or the brakes. After a little while, I asked if Molly wanted a turn in teaching.
Now, here’s the difference between my wife and me: The first thing she did was tell him to “Stay straight and peddle hard.” Then, she grabbed the seat and pushed him off. He got a few feet before he lost his balance. But she kept doing it and he would get farther and farther with each push.
The next day, I tried Molly’s way. I wanted so badly to keep holding on, but noticed the more I did, the less he actually learned. It wasn’t until I really let go that he was peddling all the way down Hill Street. “Stay straight & peddle hard!” I yelled to him.
We have practiced every night this week. Tai has systematically run into every ditch and has hit every sign, post, mailbox, and telephone pole on Hill Street. At one point, when he was still working on braking, he hit a sign and went down hard. He was crying and catching his breath. I asked if he wanted to stop for the day, but he said, “No, I want to keep going.” Here again, I was holding onto him when he really needed to keep going.
Today is Friday, only 3 days since he first got on the bike. For the last 2 hours, as I have been writing this on the front porch, he has zipped up and down Hill Street a hundred times all by himself. No more push-offs. He’s even got the brake down.
Of course, this is all a parable. If Jesus were writing this, he might say, “The kingdom of heaven is like teaching a child to ride a bike.”
Last Sunday, Jesus told us “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Sometimes we hold on a little too tightly to things or people. Sure, we have good reasons for doing so…we know better, we want to protect, we want control. But that isn’t always the best thing in the long run.
Perhaps we should do what Molly did with Tai…let go, push off, and yell those important reminders–“Stay straight & peddle hard!” The beauty of this is that it’s not irresponsible. Molly kept her eye on Tai the whole time, but she let him go. Sometimes he ran into a sign, and other times he didn’t. She didn’t control him like I wanted to do. That stance, which is pretty scary, is actually very godly.
Another lesson for me in parenthood and life.
Stay straight & peddle hard.