There we were, in the middle of the block, my 3-year-old wearing a dress and rainboots, sitting on her red tricycle, and wailing. (Said 3-year-old also had not had a nap, therefore everything was Tragic, capital T.)
Meanwhile, the boy, recently turned 20 months, was numerous yards farther down the block, scooting his three-wheeler along like it was his job and he had no intention of quitting.
And me, in the middle, as usual, wondering if it was tough love time for the girl who refuses to pedal, if the boy would listen when I tell him to stop, if any of the neighbors were watching and laughing, if I should haul everything back to our yard and take the kids inside, once again giving up on a “walk” around the block with the kids.
I’m happy to tell you that we pressed on. There was more wailing. Some frustration. A moment when the boy nearly rolled himself into the road. And another moment when I nearly dumped the 3-year-old off her tricycle on accident helping her over a bump.
But there were also brief moments of joy when the 3-year-old realized she could actually pedal the tricycle and go farther and faster than she could trying to scoot or drag it behind her.
She grinned as she cruised down the block, then cried out when she stopped pedaling and couldn’t get started again.
“Keep pedaling,” I told her again and again. “It’s easier if you just keep going.”
The words ring true not only for riding a tricycle and but for following Jesus.
“I struggle with forward motion,” the band Relient K sings.
I thought of this as I watched my daughter start and stop and start and stop and grow frustrated with the whole process of riding a tricycle. She really wants to graduate to a “big girl” bike. I insist that she must learn to pedal the trike first.
Christian growth can be like this: a repeated stopping and starting, becoming frustrated with the progress (or lack of it), tempted to give up on the whole idea.
Pedaling was hardest when the path was uphill. It was then that my daughter most needed my help. I pushed. I pulled. I guided. It was tiring, but we had to get home.
Life is often hardest when the road is uphill — sickness, trial, unmet expectations, unforgiveness, unrelinquished sin. It is then that we need someone else, someone more experienced, older, who’s been through this before, to journey with us. To hold our hands. To encourage us to keep going. To push us ever closer to Christ.
Even when circumstances are not as dire, we need each other’s help.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)
Working together, not in competition. I know my daughter, a feisty redhead if ever there was one, was not happy to be lagging behind her brother the younger. One time, she almost passed him. But their methods are not the same. He does not pedal. And his tricycle sits lower to the ground. She is working toward a different goal. And she is a different person.
The same could be said for our Christian brothers and sisters. Some of us are growing in tangible and noticeable ways. Some of us seem stuck where we’re at. But we’re all on different vehicles, with different skills.
“… let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)
The race marked out for us. Is it possible the race is marked out differently for each believer? I don’t know for sure, but I know it’s dangerous to compare spiritual growth and “progress” in the Christian life between believers.
I don’t know when my daughter “should” be able to pedal her tricycle, but I know she won’t learn how by sitting inside the house watching movies or walking when she could be riding. She will have to do it. Over and over again.
The Christian life requires discipline. And practice. It’s a relationship. It takes time. And effort. Frankly, it’s hard. But it gets easier, for moments, until you move on to the next level of growth. The “big girl” bike, if you will.
Keep pedaling, friends. We have to get home.