I learned how to ride a bike without training wheels in the second or third grade. On Saturday mornings, my dad would take me a few blocks away from the busy street in Tokyo where we lived to practice. He would hold on to the back of my bike, running alongside me as I gained speed. I had a beautiful, cherry red, Japanese bike. It had a sturdy basket on the front, a bell whose ring could clear a sidewalk, one of those kickstands that lifted the entire back end of the bike, and a silver metal rack behind the seat. As long as I believed my dad was still holding on to that silver metal rack, I did just fine. Sometimes he would let go without me knowing, and I would continue riding confidently until I realized I couldn’t hear his feet drumming the pavement behind me any longer. I would turn around, see him in the distance, start wobbling, and then fall. We would do this again and again.
I’d apologize for falling down (again) each time, and though he never showed any signs of impatience or frustration, I still remember the feeling that I was taking too long, that I should be riding already. I wanted to catch on quickly and glide away without so many scrapes and wobbles.
I could write a long list of all of the “should be” weights that I’ve carried since those days.
A couple of years ago, I went to a cross country meet that my oldest was participating in. The humidity was thick, and it was the warmest part of the day. I was tired before the crowded event even began, and I had a pit in my stomach as I rushed my two younger kids through the grass. Crowds and places where we have to move fast are full of triggers for our youngest. By the middle of the event, I was dripping with sweat, carrying our visibly upset four-year-old, handing another sticky, melting snack to our seven-year-old, and trying to figure out where to catch a glimpse of our ten-year-old who was running. In my mind, I reprimanded myself for not being better prepared for the setting and for being as anxious as I was. There were hundreds of other parents around me doing the same thing, and I thought I should be better at this kind of thing by now.
I am a grown woman, raising children of my own now, and yet I still find myself forgetting that I don’t have to live by a rule book of should-be’s. Jesus hasn’t set me free so I can work to check off an ever-growing list of should-be’s in my own strength. God doesn’t tell me to hurry up and get myself together. He doesn’t ask me why it’s taking me so long nor does He pull out a chart to show me how far behind schedule I am.
When I was eight and couldn’t quickly overcome my fear of riding alone, my dad ran beside me holding my bike up as I rode. He steadied me. He found a quiet street in the middle of a busy, bustling city to keep me safe. He cleaned up my scraped knees when I fell. He made time to let me enjoy the feeling of wind in my hair and made space for me to try again and again after I fell. If my dad worried that I might never get the hang of it, I never knew. To this day, riding a bike still feels like something magical to me.
It’s counterintuitive to the culture of scarcity we live in, but we are free to move at the pace God has given us.
We’re free to say no when our capacity is full and our bodies are tired. We’re free to learn slowly, to say we don’t know, to take up the space we need to grow deep and wide in the tasks, gifts, and lessons we’ve been given. We’re free to be quiet and observe. We’re free to speak up when we are ready. We are free to feel what we feel and be where we’re at. We’re free to offer the little we have and watch to see how our little transforms into enough in God’s able hands. We’re free to let the silence linger a little longer. We’re free to mother others as women who have limits and worth, women with bodies and minds to pay attention to and care for. We’re free to live without the restrictive timelines that tell us we’re too late to bloom, too slow to ever be what we should be, too limited to experience God at work in and through our lives.
We are free to be loved and then to learn and live, however slowly, from the foundation of that perfect love.Leave a Comment