“NO!  I don’t want to ride a balance bike, I want my little zoomer!” These words were screamed by my three-year-old as my husband pointed out he had outgrown his tricycle.  It was clear to everyone but Teddy that the time had come to master the balance bike.

 “Mom I just kissed my balance bike good-bye.  After all, it has been very good to me, but I’m ready for a pedal bike.”  My introspective four-year-old, Max, murmured as he prepared to try a pedal bike for the first time.

“I asked dad to take off my training wheels, and he called me a determined woman!  My heart is bursting with joy!” Exclaimed my five-year-old daughter Bridget (whose vocabulary sounds as if it stepped right out of an Anne of Green Gables book.)

Ready or not, it was time.  Time for each child to take the next step in bike-riding expertise.  And so one sunny afternoon, we all set out – each with the next-level bike – to let the Great Bike Training of 2018 commence.  We hadn’t been at it long before three kiddos realized this was not going to be a simple one-and-done session.  As Teddy grumpily inched along on his balance bike, Max slowly wobbled next to dad, and Bridget took her first tumble, the hesitation and frustration set in.  “I want my old bike back,” they each proclaimed.  And a part of me longed to fulfill that request.  After all, it had been so easy for them to ride the bikes they were comfortable on.  Were we pushing them too quickly?  Maybe we should wait until next spring?

But I soon saw something which made me realize that forward was the only way to go.  Teddy picked up his feet for a few inches and began to BEAM when he heard his daddy yelling, “Good job, my big man!  You got it!”  Then I saw my husband running beside Bridget and Max giving them the support and encouragement they needed to keep trying, despite the difficulty.  I saw kids who were struggling but determined not to give up.  I saw my children open to growth.

Aren’t we all like my kids sometimes when it comes to our spiritual lives?  We get so comfortable where we are.  We pray “enough” we know our faith well “enough” we are selfless “enough” (and certainly more than that other guy!) We get so good at “riding our bike” spiritually that we resist opportunities for further conversion or growth.  How many times have I thrown a “temper tantrum” at God when I didn’t want a particular challenge?  But grow we must!  We should be open to the lifelong process of deeper relationship with our God.  He invites and we respond…again and again and again…until we see him face to face.   

As Christ told us a few weeks ago, He is the vine and we are the branches.  The branches of a vine don’t just get comfortable where they are, they seek growth.  When the “vine grower” prunes the vine, he spurs new growth.  “He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit,” John 15:2.  So if we’re bearing spiritual fruit and “doing well” spiritually, it’s not time to sit back and relax.  It’s time to get pruned so that we can bear even more. 

That pruning hurts.  It’s uncomfortable.  His pruning causes a ruckus in our souls.  Sometimes His pruning appears as distaste for habitual sin.  Sometimes it’s a prompting to spend more time in prayer.  Sometimes a call to sacrifice, to let go of something or someone we love or to offer more of our time, talent, or treasure.  Whatever it is, like riding a new bike for the first time, it will be a challenge. 

My most recent call to growth came a few weeks ago.  A woman from moms’ group e-mailed that she felt called to offer more rigorous prayer and sacrifice.  She said that her best intentions regarding discipline tend to fall short, so she asked if all of us would be willing to hold one another accountable for daily prayer and sacrifice.  Almost immediately, my inbox was flooded with everyone saying we felt the same tug.  We decided to commit to daily prayer, sacrifice, and accountability for 90 days.  It isn’t the timing that any of us would have chosen.  Most of us are pregnant, have a newborn, and/or are nursing, so it would be easy to say it’s not the right time.  But it was abundantly clear that God put this desire on our hearts now for growth now.  So, together with one another, we said yes to His invitation.

What is it that God is calling you to right now?  Do you feel spiritual comfortable or spiritually stuck?  Where is He stirring you to grow?  Have you been trying to make God’s plans fit into yours?  Instead, I encourage us all to fit our plans into God’s.  When we do that, we trust that He will give us the grace to grow.  He won’t abandon us in the process.  Like my husband jogging beside a teetering bicyclist, our Heavenly Father will be there wherever He calls us to go.

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