As a parent teaching your child to ride a bike is a rite of passage.
A few months ago I asked Laurel if she would like to try to ride her bike without training wheels. And she said yes not really aware of what would come next. The first time I ran with her as she rode her bike. I was catching every little imbalance so that she wouldn’t fall. And then the second time around I let go some. “Look up at where you are going, don’t look down…” And then she goes… for a moment and then she crashes. Then she doesn’t want to do it anymore.
She demands I put back on the training wheels.
I resist for a moment. Then I put them back on.
A few weeks later... without consulting Laurel… I took the training wheels off. I threw them in the trash. For a few months, her bike sat on the ground untouched. It’s like her bike said to her... remember if you ride me… you are probably going to fall down.
Then one day I asked Laurel again if she would like to ride her bike. And she obliged. This time a little more courage. She was learning to fall gracefully. Putting her foot out to catch her fall. She was learning to feel her body, balance, and ride. She was discovering the joy of riding her bike. Each time she needed my help to get on the bike and ride. But each time a little more on her own.
A few days later I look outside and I see Laurel riding in circles on her bike in the driveway. Wait? How did you do that? Then I saw her practicing by herself. Falling. Getting back up. Falling. Getting back up. Figuring out how to start and stop riding her bike on her own.
She was finding her agency.
As I watched Laurel start and stop this feeling of pride washed over me. As a parent, you question whether throwing away the training wheels and letting your child fall is good parenting. Then you see your child take agency. It made me so proud of her.
Later that night as I put Laurel to bed I told her how proud I was of her. Her response was, "what is pride?” I fumbled over words. I knew the feeling but couldn’t define the word. I have walked with her question… and pride at this moment is seeing my child take agency and risk to learn something new like riding a bike.
Laurel was teaching me hope.
Hope isn’t a transcendental, out-of-this-world word. It is tangible.
During the pandemic, someone said, “I hope Storied Church is around in a few years…” Hope was used like it was some kind of voodoo word… if we just close our eyes… then just maybe… we might be around in a few years.
Hope is many things. But one-way hope is tangible is through the word agency. Agency is defined by action or intervention that will bring about a particular result.
Hope asks the question what action am I willing to do that might further this vision and mission of a community? What is required of me?
And then doing that thing.
The question we hold is how much are we willing to put our ideas into action. Failure or success.
Life is a lot like riding a bike (and a box of chocolates). It can be discomforting when we realize that our training wheels are nowhere to be found. We become vulnerable to failure and success. And it can be scary. We can engage or becomes despondent.
There are moments that I wonder in the silence of my heart, "God are you sure I am called to do this work?" It is really hard. There are a lot of unknowns. I feel like sometimes God has thrown my training wheels away, and that I am learning to trust. I am learning to put one foot in front of the other. I am learning to hope.
What I am learning is that when we can be present in our vulnerability and continue to find our agency. There in that place, we will find, inexpressible, out-of-this-world joy. A God who is proud.
I can see it in the smile of my little girl.