He had been hostile to the idea, until the day he wasn’t. That day, he saw the older kids flying around the church on their two-wheelers, and he said to me, “I want to go fast like the big kids.”
“Great,” I said. “Let me help you learn how to ride your big boy bike.”
He did not hesitate this time. What once caused him terror, he embraced with his jaw set. I gave him one boost, and he panicked, but he quickly shook away the fear and put on his brave face again. I let him keep his honor, and pretended I hadn’t seen behind his mask. Yes, son, the ground is a little bumpy here. I gave him one more boost, and the connections connected. He had his balance, and he raced away.
Of course, that was only lesson one. I jogged alongside him, pointing out details like brakes and curbs, and trying to explain to him how to steer. But he only wanted speed. “Another boost, mommy!” he said after he worried himself to a stop near the corner.
What kind of mother could simply boost without continuing to teach and encourage? Not this kind. As I pushed, then jogged, my mouth spilled wisdom. “ Careful on this little hill, now. Look everyone, cheer for Marcus! Ok Marky, lean just a little to turn. Watch the corner. Good, Marcus! Go Marcus Go!” I skip, clap, sing for him.
“Mommy, could you stop singing for me please?” He was so polite about it, so mature. I smirked, but I stopped singing on the outside.
Speed, he wanted speed. His turns were hesitant, but as soon as he hit an open stretch of pavement, he pedaled with his whole heart. I tried to give him a little space, jogging slightly behind instead of at his side.
An empty church parking lot was the perfect place to learn. There were few obstacles. Only one place made him nervous: the “tricky spot,” he called it. It was a corner of the church that required him to turn just a little more quickly, so as not to run into the elementary school. And as he turned, he worried about the hill on his right that leads down to the back of the school. His face pinched with worry, as if the hill could suck him in. “Steer, honey. You’re the boss of this bike,” I told him. But he’d get nervous, and walk his bike around this particular corner.
Yet, the boy loves speed. And as he rounded the bend later that day, speed carried him away, and he forgot to worry about the impending “tricky spot” with the scary hill. I jogged behind, but too far behind. I saw his body stiffen as he suddenly realized where he was. “Turn, Marky, turn!” I yelled, running faster. But his arms were locked, and he did not think to break. Instead of turning, he went straight--straight towards the school; straight towards the railing and the bushes next to the school.
The railing was just the right height. It would have tried to take his head off. At the last second, he broke free from his terror freeze, and he grabbed the railing with his hands. His bike kept riding, hitting the school. He swung from the railing, and I congratulated him. “Great catch Marcus! You could have gotten really hurt!”
He did not accept my congratulations. He left his bike and ran to the other side of the church. He would not look at me, would not hear me. He was mad. Was he mad at himself? Was he upset with his bike? No. He was mad at me—his mother. He curled up on the grass in a ball of anger and humiliation, refusing to speak to me.
I’m happy to report that my son has “forgiven” me for his bike wreck and has now mastered the tricky spot, and many other tricky things. But this story made it in to his father’s sermon that Sunday. Pastor-daddy spoke about anger, and the way we often misdirect our anger at God.
I hadn’t seen it when it happened- myself in his misdirected anger. I was the wise one, calmly taking the anger, swallowing it, encouraging him regardless. But as I relived the story through the sermon, I saw myself on the bike, and my smirk became a little less smirky.
My life is pretty good right now. What is there to be angry about, you ask? Let me tell you about just one (there are more, but, another day.)
I, also, like speed; efficiency, productivity, and gettin’ ‘er done. I like to feel good; I like that I can play volleyball with my daughter; wrestle the boys; bounce on the trampoline in the rain. I like having lungs that breathe and fingers that type and a body that can whip this house back into shape every so often.
But I live in a body, and this body, to maintain optimum performance, requires certain things. There are rules to follow, vegetables to consume, and worst of all, there are tasty things that must be avoided.
And often, I don’t avoid those things. And I get angry with the implication that I should. I get angry with a body that holds on to weight despite my awesome activity level, angry that it pretends I am still feeding it too much cheese.
So I wrestle, and resolve and I stop for a coffee with every intention of avoiding added sugar this time. But at the last second I rebel, and I ask for the sugar. The woman who takes my order doesn’t criticize me; she tells me to have a nice day, and I enjoy that first sip, fully intending to do just that, so there.
Self control is hard. Food has consequences. Sugar negatively affects my body in ways that it might not affect someone else. It’s not fair, I pout. I’m angry at the rules, angry that it’s hard to keep them. I’m angry that my lack of self control reveals my selfishness over and over and over again.
Self control, this is required of me, and is it really that much to ask? No, I cannot have what I want whenever I want as much as I want. When my kids whine about this I laugh at them, at their blindness, at the way they whine about only having 6 chocolate chips in their pancakes instead of 10. Is God really so unfair? He gives me countless pleasures of taste and body and soul every single day. But I want more, always more, and I expect no consequences.
How can I find it in my heart to forgive God for these horribly oppressive rules that are contained in my body’s operation manual?
I am a child. And my Father has every right to smirk, to ban all chocolate chips from all of my pancakes from this time forth and to eternity. Yet he comes to find me where I am sulking, and He stoops low, loving. His grace breaks me, again.
God deliver me from my stupid self!
God deliver me from my stupid self!
We laugh at me together.
When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.