Earlier this summer, my daughter was "learning" how to ride a bike. The streets in our neighborhood are wobbly and wonky. She asked me constantly, “Why is my bike tipping over?!” and “Why aren’t the streets smooth?!” And I told her the line I memorized from the first page of my driver’s manual:
Not all roads are straight and flat.
The first time I read that line in the manual, I laughed. Psh. How OBVIOUS. Not all roads are straight and flat.
But then, don’t we expect the roads to be straight and flat? The earth, after all, is not straight and flat, nor is your plotline. Or your heartbeat. If it were, you’d be dead.
Instead, we get wobbly and wonky, and you just have to learn how to navigate the curves.
See, she’s terrified of falling over. She wants to ride her bike “like a big girl” but at the same time she wants the process to be simple and easy.
Life has been moderately easy. Until the last few months. And I think that even in her little world, she’s feeling the shakiness. And in a big way, she became even more aware that falling over hurts. There was a little bump at the end of the driveway – she screamed. “I can’t do it!”
There was a pot hole around the corner. “I’m going to fall down!” she began to panic. She leaned precariously to the opposite side.
“Just put your foot down,” I stated. “Create balance.”
Through the whole ride, she continued to state her failures ahead of time, screamed about her inadequacies, and demanded assistance. At one dip in the road, I even pushed the back of her seat over a bump to show her that going over the bumps was easier if you went faster rather than slower.
When we got back to the house we sat down, eye to eye.
I asked her why she was so afraid of falling down, and she didn’t have an answer.
Sometimes, when you see that life is changing, you just feel anxious. Your awareness of your smallness grows. Even for the littles.
I know I use this verse often, but I find myself repeating it and exploring it with my children. They have many fears and anxieties. So we use this verse as our motto: For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).
And on that day, beside this fiery little spirit, those words made a little more sense. God built us with strong bodies, strong hearts, and strong spirits. He crafted us to solve problems, enabled our bodies to become stronger and more capable, and gave us humor and hope to rove these wandering roads.
He didn’t put us together as lumps of green goo. He didn’t make us cats, or gnats, or clay blobs. He didn’t make us to sit, afraid, timid, in the dark, crying and stuck.
He specifically asked his disciples, “Why do you have no faith?”
“That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him” (Mark 4:35-41)!
Jesus knew his plans: Morning meet-and-greet with the crowds on the shore. Afternoon boat tour across the lake. Nap. Evening gathering with the local town outcast. Normal day. The disciples follow along, unaware of the bigger picture (relate?) and suddenly they are in the middle of The Life of Pi and wondering where the tiger is. And somehow Jesus is asleep. Jesus knew the storm. He knew who could control the storm, he knew the power of the storm, and even further, he knew his ability to overcome the storm. He knew of different storms on the horizon.
Do you know how capable you are?
Do you know who made you, piece by piece, capable, competent, and purposed?
Before this storm occurred, Jesus had spoken to them. “Consider carefully what you hear,” he added. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them” (Mark 4:34-35).
Many things spread easily.
Smiles, laughter, silliness.
Tension, anger, frustration.
Panic, worry, blame.
Hope, grit, perseverance.
With the measure you use, you will be given more. Are you focusing on the panic, the gripping fear of the unknown, and the uncertainty that you were unaware of before? OR are you focusing on the author of faith? Are you focusing on the Provider, the Guide, the King of all? The first and last, who knows the storms and has prepared you to face them. Or, possibly, he has prepared that storm to face you. Maybe you need to see hope, and darkness is where you will find it.
Because a shadow just means that there is light nearby.
If you act with hope, you will find more hope. If you act with great faith, with unity, with great perseverance, with kindness, with generosity… you may not always see the measure coming back. But it goes out and ripples onward.
And if you act in fear, if you give out panic, and anxiety, and if you give out criticism, and snide remarks, and blame…those make waves, too. Which waves do you want to spread? And what waves do you want to arrive at your feet?
You know what else? Jesus knew what lay beyond the storm. He knew his disciples would continue struggling with understanding. And they reacted similarly – they were even more shook than before. He controls the STORMS?! WHAT.
The tests show you who you are and whose you are. What lays beyond…that’s where you see faith walking on water. It’s not just the storm. It’s the changed life afterwards that shows who you are.
Some of my most anxious thoughts have been about what will happen “after” this pandemic. What will life be like on the other side? This has opened so many wide, broad doors to fear and anxiety. Let’s not go that way. Let’s instead, like Jesus did, stand up and call out that peace which surpasses all understanding. Let’s use our wit, our strong arms, our strong hearts, our strong spirits. “No matter how you move, always rise” (one of my Reebok shirts).
Regardless of what waves arrive, regardless of the road before you--
You are stronger than you know. You are more capable than you imagine. You were built to overcome the storm.
You were built to thrive.
Why are you so afraid?
Not every road is for the strong of heart. Or perhaps it is.
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