Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. Ephesians 4:15
This past weekend, I taught my son to ride his bike! Or rather, putting my paternal pride aside, my son Zachary learned to ride his bike with no training wheels this weekend! (I guess there’s still a father’s pride in that statement too, but the better kind.)
He loved the rocket metaphor where we’d countdown 3-2-1 and then I’d give him a push and say, “Blast off!” It was a great feeling to watch his progress from going barely two metres to riding and staying upright for a full minute. His attitude changed from, “Aww, why do I have to learn to ride a bike?!” (same tone of voice rolled out when whining about having to eat tofu or tomatoes or having to turn off the computer or TV) to “This is the best day ever!”
But he came close to quitting and almost didn’t get to experience that best day ever.
There was a lot of crashing into bushes, steering into walls and falling and failing at first. There were many moments when he just wanted to pack it up and go home. As a parent, my job was not so much to teach him, but more to make him stick with it and give him encouragement and affirmation to help him persist.
Because there’s only one way I know of to learn to ride a bike: pedal, wobble, struggle, fall; pedal, wobble, struggle, fall; learn to catch your fall so that it doesn’t hurt so much, and repeat. And repeated enough times, the struggle magically leads to the exhilarating moment when you don’t fall: you’ve found your balance and will never forget it.
There are so many lessons in life which you can only learn by doing, falls and all. Those are the most valuable lessons, the ones where we need to accept the entire progression that comes with and leads to the desired ability.
Sometimes when we make our petitions to God, we just want the outcome, we want to fast-forward to the result and skip all the stuff in between. But the “in-between” is where character is developed, and ability without character is not complete.
Yes, our Heavenly Father could simply answer our prayers, but if it means missing steps of growth, He would be giving us far less than the best. More than just granting our requests, He wants to form Christ-like character in us through growth and maturity. And those are only learned when we accept the whole process, the wobbles and struggles and falls.
Like the parent running alongside the bicycle, through our growth and all the lessons of life, we have the assurance that our Heavenly Father is there ready to catch us.
Though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand. Psalm 37:24