As I am preparing the teaching for this weekend, I am reminded of how much I truly love and appreciate my mom. She is wonderful. Perhaps I'll write about that at a different time. I just thought it was worth clarifying, in case anyone doubted.
On to the post!
I've been riding my bike more and more lately. I honesty cannot even imagine not having one now. Yesterday I dropped off rent, met with a professor, deposited some checks, and even did a good deal of grocery shopping - all on my trusty steed.
Now some things take a greater level of foresight when choosing to travel this way. For instance, while grocery shopping I grossly overestimated the size of my backpack, resulting in a fairly ridiculous and visually humorous situation for all parties involved and present. As I inelegantly rode out of the parking lot, though, I saw a man using the live parrot he had resting on his shoulder to pick up women, and all of a sudden I didn't feel quite so uncouth. Thank you, strange pets of the world.
During my ride I tried making small talk with strangers at red lights like an eager homeschooler on his first day at public school. I was typically met with odd glances or ignored all together, but occasionally they would offer a smile or a chuckle. I even had one tenacious looking Harley-man offer me the sacred bikers greeting (a fist pointed downward, arm extended) accompanied with a horn honk. I'm pretty sure we're best friends now.
As I traversed around town carrying out my many duties, I was again blown away by the countless things I had never noticed before, things that weren't more than a mile from where I have lived for almsot four years. It's not that they were necessarily hidden , but that I was amauratic to them. Like the plot from basically any romantic coming-of-age comedy released in the 90's; hot boy overlooks bland girl until a magic make-over reveals the beauty that was there all along. Oh Freddie Prince Jr., how we miss thee.
I've realized that there is a big difference between riding for leisure and riding with deadlines. When time constraints are present and a final destination is in mind, one can loose sight of the subtle beauties around him and quickly become distressed by situations and elements that may otherwise be quite pleasant.
Take, for instance, the wind.
During a warm springtime stroll or even a casual bike ride, the soothing touch of a cool breeze can make even the saddest of hearts break into song. When late to an appointment while riding your bicycle, that same breeze can be reason enough for you to curse the very element itself.
Even as I rode to class tonight, every gust of wind seemed to hurl me further into frustration with this otherwise simple pleasure. On even a few rare occasions, I caught myself yelling loudly at the wind, pleading as if we were in some sort of childish argument, and I was expecting a valid response. Wind usually wins these arguments. I know this because the frightened and confused expressions of those nearby during these outbursts did not seem to praise me as a victor of any kind.
As I thought about my fickle affection and enmity for the wind, I realized how very childish I can be at times. That in one moment I can be thanking God for something or someone in my life, and a second later be questioning why He would ever allow such a thing in the first place. Circumstances have a way of distorting our perspective, but at the end of the day, two plus two still equals four, and God is still good and on the throne.
When I got home after my contention with creation, I thought about this passage in the third chapter of John's gospel:
"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." (John 3:8)
What a remarkable image we are given of the beautifully unsettling and unpredictable nature of God and His people. One moment His wind is at our back, aiding us in our ascent over a daunting hill, the next it is crashing into us head on, forcing weak and unused muscles to develop further to prepare for struggles to come. You can do your best to anticipate and even attempt to predict it, but the reality is that God is so much larger, and so much grander than our forecasts could ever be.
I see this so often in ministry where we continue to try a particular method or program over and over again, proclaiming that "it worked great at one point, we'll make it work again", when often I feel as though God is saying "Yes, it did, and I blessed that. But I'm moving in new and different ways now."
I once saw a speaker communicate this particularly well. He had a student up on stage facing him and had her blindfolded. He then told her to mirror his movements. The speaker began to wave his arms wildly and the student tried her best to "follow", but with little luck. He then took her blindfold off and said "Okay, now try and follow my movements." She had a little more success this time with the benefit of visibility, but still failed to keep truly aligned with the seemingly sporadic movements of the speaker's arms. "Finally" he said " Interlock your fingers with mine, and mirror me." She did so, and her hands and arms perfectly mirrored his every movement, no matter how random or irregular they seemed.
The point he made was that we sometimes spend too much time simply looking to God for His direction, and not enough time intimately connected with interlocked fingers, to the movement of His Spirit already at work among us. We will slave away over and over, repeating a small motion that at one point "mirrored" what God was doing, asserting that it has to work again. But often times God has moved from that motion, that movement, to something new, and we're left irritated in our iteration.
God's movement is hard to predict and will often move us into a place of great difficulty and hardship, if we're serious about following Him.
I remembering reading an article years ago about a team of scientists who were attempting to duplicate the incredible size of the mighty Redwood. In fact, they created an entire environmental simulation inside a dome. Every soil type, insect, animal, and element was accounted for when designing this sophisticated habitat. However, after enough time had passed, they noticed that the mighty Redwoods in their replicated ecosystem were growing much more slowly and at a much smaller size than their counterparts in the wild. They were baffled by these results until one scientist made the connection to the one element they hadn't accounted for in their dome -the wind.
They realized that the wind was what forced these trees to grow their massive roots deep into the soil. It provided the necessary resistance it needed in order for it to develop is massive size. Without it, the trees grew weak and small - nothing compared to the potential they held.
And I know that it's a bit cheesy, but I am confident that God is doing that with me. I am learning to better understand that the resistance and burdens of my life are necessary for God to grow me in the way that He knows I need. I often like to assert that I know better, that I have some insight that He doesn't, and in those moments He reminds me of where I've come from, and what He's done.
So may we ride with the pleasure of the wind against our back, but be so linked to His will that we sing His praises when that wind teaches us again how to struggle.