On Faith and Riding a Bike
Almost all of us with children have had the common, yet amazing, experience of teaching a child to ride a bike.
Before I get rolling, let’s clarify the word “bike”. Long ago, unfortunately, the word “bike” was an unambiguous word that meant bicycle – the kind with two wheels, a bell, streamers, and usually a kid perched upon its seat. But now it can mean – and often does – a group of men and women, roaring down the road, two-by-two, in lines of “bikes” a half-mile long. Most of them decked out in black leather accouterments. Any many with wallets hanging from chains. Why is that I wonder? Anyway, other than misusing the word “bike”, it’s all well and fine with me – to each is own.
I want to emphasize, though, that in my world a motorcycle is not a bike. Motorcycles are fine – if you like them, but they’re not bikes. And I don’t like “bike weeks” either, because bike weeks should be reserved for bikes – the bikes with streamers and bells on the handlebars and kids – or wannabe kids – in the seat.
I digress. If you’ve had the experience of teaching a child to ride a bike – or if you remember your own experience of learning to ride a bike – have you ever thought about what a magical and life-changing experience that is?
We have all heard the aphorism “just have a little faith”. But I’m sure there’s no such thing as a little faith. There is only big, complete, and total faith. You have to believe without any doubts to have faith. That’s what faith is all about. It’ big-time faith or none at all – at least if you want good things even amazing things to happen.
It’s a particularly sunny, spring day long ago. My oldest son was 7 years old at the time. I bought him a brand new bicycle – a Schwinn. It was a great brand when I was a kid, but I guess Schwinns are made in China or Indonesia or somewhere else these days which does not make them bad, but they’re sure not the same, But back then, I bought him a 24″ American-made Schwinn, which was a mite big for him, but like all things you buy for kids, you buy with the future in mind. Kids grow.
I know he was skeptical about his ability to ride a “two-wheeler” – training wheels exorcised – the bike now a sleek, streamlined, two-wheel vehicle perfect for an eager, and seriously skeptical, seven-year-old boy,
You have to believe.
I spent probably ten or fifteen minutes holding on to the back of the bicycle while he pedaled away. He knew I was back there, running behind, holding the bike up so he wouldn’t fall.
His faith was misplaced. He had faith that I would hold onto the bike and not let him fall. But, at one point, I let go and kept running behind him as if I were holding him up. I slowed down and let him get ahead of me, and said: “Look behind you – you’re riding the bike by yourself – I’m not holding you up!”
He looked and saw me standing far behind him. His faith in me got him started, but his faith in himself kept him from going. He was riding on his own. Every single day since that day, when he rides a bike he knows he won’t fall – he has faith. He has big, complete, and total faith. He has no doubt.
And just about 10 years later I taught my youngest son to ride a bike. The faith it took to believe is always the same when it comes to riding a bike – or just about anything else you want to accomplish.
Imagine what we could do with our lives if we had that kind of faith in our own abilities every single day. Maybe we could move mountains. Or invent great things. Or write amazing novels. Be great artists and paint the beautiful landscapes of the world. Or just be better parents and grandparents by teaching our children and grandchildren the importance of having faith. The kind of faith that instills in them the belief that everything in their lives they want to accomplish they can accomplish if they have faith. Faith is believing they can conquer any mountain, move any obstacle, become anything they want to be… and all they need is the faith to believe.
We taught them how to ride a bike and remind them of the moment we let go and they were riding on their own. Faith.
In life, we’re riding on our own much of the time – even if we are lucky enough to be surrounded by family and friends who love us. They can support us and they can cheer us on, but like the boy on the bike, we have to have faith in ourselves and believe… we won’t always have someone holding us up.
There’s nothing we cannot do, there’s nothing we cannot accomplish, there’s nothing we cannot be if we have faith and never doubt.
Faith, my friend, is so hard to recognize,
When you’re traveling, all alone in the night –
So, look to the light and… (P. F. Sloan, “From a Distance”)
Whenever you think you’ve lost faith, just look back and remember the day you learned to ride a bike – or the day you taught a child to ride a bike and think about the faith you saw on that day. I think, if you do that, you’ll begin to see how important faith really is and you just might find you have a lot more faith than you think you do.
To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead, you relax and float. (Alan Watts)