PASTOR COLUMN - God is right there, watching our every step

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Hot, California summer. Sitting on a slightly too tall, new bright-yellow, pseudo 10-speed bike. Standing on the tippy toes of my left foot, my right foot ready to push down on the pedal to see if I could really ride all by myself down our sandy driveway. I remember my heart racing, as I squinted into the sun and said to myself, "Okay, I might crash, but that's okay. It might hurt, but it won't kill me … I'm going to keep doing it until I get it right. No matter what."

Big self-talk for a 6-year-old. I remember thinking that the soft sand would be a good place to crash, if I had to crash anyway. Funny how our perspectives can change with a little experience! I had no idea in that moment that riding on the soft sand was actually making learning to ride on my own even harder and that it almost guaranteed that I would crash as I desperately tried to build up enough speed to stay upright.

Yep, I crashed. Several times. I remember the first time, I felt kind of embarrassed so I jumped up quickly, looked around, dusted myself off and hurried with my new bike to my "starting place" again.

Before the third crash I noticed I had made it a bit further down the driveway, but I was starting to get a little frustrated, hot and tired. My previous resolve was starting to waiver a little.

As I was wheeling back to my starting place again, I heard the door to the house open and my father came out to see what I was up to. I'm sure he had been watching the entire time but chose to enter the scene at a point when he thought I might be more open to his input.

I had started this process of learning to ride a bike wanting to do it my own way, not welcome to having someone else tell me what to do.

How many areas of our lives have been lived with that attitude?! How many of us have thought or said, "If only I knew then what I know now…"

Chances are there was someone, at least God, who was watching and would have been more than happy to give us some direction that could have saved us much heartache.

I know that if I had talked to my Dad before starting my personal bike riding lessons I probably would've crashed a lot less.

While chatting with God about what to share this week, he brought back the memory of the yellow bike and learning to ride. He reminded me how our spiritual growth is very like the experience of my learning to ride without crashing.

Everyone crashes at some time. That's a comforting thought if you've ever crashed while learning something new - riding a bike, walking with Christ, learning how to forgive, keeping your temper or reaching out beyond your own comfort zone to meet someone else's need.

Everyone gets a chance to crash. And to get back up and try it again.

So, back to learning to ride the bright-yellow, pseudo-10 speed ... My father came out and asked what I was up to, even though I know now that he was likely watching every moment of my endeavor.

Rooting me on silently from inside the house every time my foot managed to push the pedals hard enough to go a few more feet and wincing each time I crashed, knowing he couldn't do it for me. It was something I had to learn to do.

Until Dad came out, I was intent on learning how to do it all by myself. Just having seen others riding bikes was, I believed, sufficient for me to become the world's best bike rider.

I thought I had it all down, so imagine my surprise when I kept crashing over and over again.

When we begin our relationship with Christ as the leader of our lives, how many of us have said, "I've seen people do this. Piece of cake. I don't need to go to a church or read the Bible, go to groups ... I've got this."

And then, without support and instruction or someone to ask questions of, well, we crash.

Dad asked if he could make a suggestion. "Why don't you try riding where the dirt is hard instead of in the soft sand? It will help you go faster so you can stay up longer. When you ride where its too soft, its easy to fall over and you have to work harder to pedal."

When I explained why I was riding in the soft sand, so when I crashed I wouldn't get too hurt, he just smiled.

Dad said, "Wouldn't it be better to just learn how to ride really well so you just don't fall down?"

As we begin our walks (or rides) with Christ, chances are good we're going to find ourselves crashing. He knows we will, but cheers us on as we try. He is running along side us as we move forward and is there to help us as we get up over and over again. We need to learn to say, "Okay, I might crash, but that's OK. It might hurt, but it won't kill me … I'm going to keep doing it until I get it right. No matter what."

God is right there, watching us each step of the way and is quick to join us in the middle of anything we have going on.

He wants to join us in every part of our lives, large and small. My incorrect thinking about trying to ride in the soft sand was actually making it much harder for me to get where I wanted to be. Because I had an incorrect understanding, it caused me to work harder with worse results.

Our Christian life can be like that if we aren't careful. Sometimes we just keep trying to move forward in what could be considered "shifting sands," the areas in our lives we knowingly allow ourselves not to mature so our choices line up with God's will.

The more sandy areas we have, the more likely it is we are going to fall in those areas. It might be in unforgiveness, pride, fear, lust … each of us has our own sandy areas.

Over and over God allows us opportunities to make right choices, and will help us to walk them out. But if we continue to ride in the soft sand or choose to live on a slippery slope, he sees us, and winces each time we needlessly fall. This reminds me of the song countless children have learned in church through the ages, derived from the scripture in Matthew 7:24-27, "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock; and the rain descended, the floods came and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand; and the rain descended and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall." God's word, in every area of our lives, gives us the firm foundation, the "hard dirt" that allows us to pedal confidently, built up speed and strength, go farther faster. When left to our own devices, our perception or understanding may have merit in our own minds but if it doesn't line up with the Word of God, it is like trying to learn to ride a bright-yellow, pseudo 10-speed in soft sand. We create the very environment that will cause us to crash over and over again. We need to have the stabilizing Word of God in our lives about everything. The Bible says "Test all things; hold fast what is good" in 1 Thessalonians 5:21.

We need to invite our Heavenly Father into every exploit so we can reach the goal. We need to look for people that have a solid, fruitful life and ask them for their input, then apply it.

Then we need to humbly ask them to help us to improve. The Holy Spirit is called, among other things, The Counselor. We should be having regular appointments with him. Jesus has made a way for us to be in constant communication with a loving and accepting God that also wants to encourage us to do our best, with the help of the Holy Spirit, who smiles and says, "Wouldn't it be better to just learn how to ride really well so you just don't fall down?"

The Rev. Mikki Jones co-pastors Grace Christian Center with her husband, the Rev. Dave Jones. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312 or email her at catherinehicks@wwub.com.

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