Getting Back on the Bicycle
By Leah Fuller
With only a twinge of anxiety, I let go of the bike seat, slowed my run to a trot, and watched Anna's precarious balance carry her down the bike path. In the 3.5 seconds it took to slow my trot to a walk and begin to pat myself on the back for a job well-done, I witnessed perhaps the most classic bike wreck in history. As soon as she realized that I was no longer holding onto the seat or running beside her, her mind went blank and all reasoning ceased. She steered sharply to the right, released both handle bars, and attempted at once to become Supergirl. Her momentum carried her forward, arms out-stretched. She came to an abrupt halt two and a half feet later—sprawled out, face down, entangled in the metal heap of her bicycle.
Before she even landed, her piercing cry rang in my ears. I hurried to her side, employed my impressive skills at untying human knots, picked her up from the ground, and set her on my knee to assess the injuries. She was scraped up for sure with gravel embedded in the abrasions on her hands and some pretty awesome road rash to the knees. I was impressed!
Unfortunately, Anna did not share my enthusiasm. “I can't do it right. I don't want to learn how to ride my bike. I don't want to try again!” she wailed. Holding her close, I offered a few words of encouragement: “Anna, sometimes you have to fall down in order to learn how to do something well. In the end it will be worth it.” When I assured her I would stay by her side, she was ready to try again.
Here we are a few weeks into a brand new year, making resolutions and planning a fresh start. And how often we sound like Anna! “Ouch, exercising regularly is harder than I thought it would be.” “I just can't seem to get it right.” “Every time I try to read through the Bible in a year, I fail.” “I'm tired and don't really want to keep trying.” If we're being totally honest, we will admit more of us have failed to keep our resolutions than have succeeded. And yet, each year we get on the “bike” and try again, hoping that just maybe this time will be different.
In the Gospel of John, Peter, one of the rock stars of the early church, makes some resolutions. Jesus is eating with the disciples in the upper room and washing their feet when He cryptically starts telling the men that He will be betrayed and that they can continue to follow Him when He's gone. Peter boldly resolves, “I will lay down my life for you” (John 13:37). Whoa! We all know what happened later that night. Peter tried to blend in with the crowd in Caiaphus' courtyard, but due to his accent, three different people asked if he was one of Jesus' disciples. And what did he do? He lied; he wasn’t a disciple! Just a few hours earlier Peter was ready to die for Jesus, and now he didn't know Him? That was a pretty big fall off the bicycle.
If I were Peter, I would have been chastising myself: “What have I done?” “I wanted so badly to be a good follower of Jesus, but I failed.” “This whole living like Jesus thing is a lot harder than I thought it would be”.
I am so glad John recorded the rest of the story. Peter believed he had failed beyond hope and had returned to what he had always done, what was most comfortable...fishing. Obviously after such a big fall off the bike, there was no getting back on. Or was there? What we see next is truly an act of grace and redemption. While Peter enjoys a fish dinner on the beach with Jesus, who had been raised from the dead, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves Him. Peter replies three times “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you” (John 21:16). Jesus already knew that Peter loved Him, but it was important for Peter to say the words, to climb back on the bicycle and try to ride again. With Jesus’ questions and his declarations, Peter experienced a total transformation. He became empowered to fulfill Jesus’ expectations and would play a key role in establishing the Church, the Body of Christ on earth.
Sometimes transformation and living a life fully committed to God can feel a bit like learning to ride a bicycle. We fall down; it hurts; we cry and want to give up. And yet, the God of grace picks us up, cleans our scrapes and wounds, and helps us get back on the bike. I want to be like Anna as she happily rode circles around me an hour later and thanked me for teaching her to ride. I want to be like Peter and let God use me. I want to thank God for picking me up and transforming me. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9). Have you felt His grace?