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Just Riding a Bike

I have a confession to make. I didn’t learn how to really ride a bike until I was 13 years old.

WHAT?!? How could this be? Why was my childhood so barren of fun and frivolity?? How could my parents deprive me of this experience for so long?

Well it wasn’t their fault really.  They bought me my first real bike when I was 7, a black Huffy, and encouraged me to try and ride it that day.  I did, and it ended poorly in every definition and version of the word.  I took off down the driveway with reckless abandon, careening across our driveway as I zigzagged towards the road.  I knew that was no man’s land and I had no intention of playing human Frogger with my new bike, so I abandoned ship before I reached the asphalt.

I blanked on how to stop.  I couldn’t for the life of me remember the method of slowing down, so I simply jumped off the bike.  It wasn’t a graceful letting go of the handlebars and simple gliding off the back of the seat while the bike kept going.  For some reason, I thought it would be good to jump off and to the side, not realizing this would entangle me and the bike in a large pile of twisted steal and bruises.  The bike kept going all the way to the ditch, but I wound up crumpled at the bottom of a long leaf pine tree, bawling and gripping my now skinned knee.

It was at that moment, while I watched me knee oozing and the bike’s wheel turning as it laid in the ditch, that I vowed to never touch that bike again.  Over the next couple weeks and months I would look down at my knee and see part of the scab or the lightest hint of a scar and would recommit myself to my solemn vow.  That black bike sat in our garage for the next six years and I never did more than look at it.  I kept my vow out of fear and anxiety about falling and skinning my knee again.

Reflecting on it, I know it was a trivial fear.  Skin regrows and what little bit of discomfort that comes with the injury is small in comparison to the freedom of riding a bike.   But it was my fear and it mattered to me deeply.  I wanted to avoid that feeling of terror I had felt careening down that driveway at all costs, and that came easiest while never even attempting to ride a back again.  I let the fear of pain trap me from the freedom of commanding the roads from the tiny bike seat.

For six years, I was paralyzed by that fear and refused to process any of it and move forward.  But this isn’t just a childhood occurrence.  How often do we allow fear and trepidation to control that way that we live our lives?  How often do we experience something negative and afterwards avoid even the chance that it could ever possibly happen again?  All too often I fear.  The human life is driven by memory and past experience. The way that we perceive our surroundings and our current moment is framed by the memories we have of our past experiences and the perception of our future.

For me and the bike, I remembered the pain and shame of that experience and thought what could happen if I commit such a bold act of failure again.  When we frame our lives like this, it traps us in a loop of continual self-denial where we’re too afraid to do anything, to take chances, even to move at all.  We become mentally and emotionally paralyzed into inaction so much that we can’t break out of the cycle to try something, anything, again.

For me it was a trivial thing like riding a bike.  For some people, it’s participating in a religious community because of past negative experiences.  For others it’s a refusal to be involved in an emotional relationship with someone else because of past results.  Regardless of what we refuse to be a part of based on our life’s experiences, the results are the same:  we are cheated out of the richest parts of life by our fear.

This is not what God intended for our lives!  When the author of creation breathed life into each of us, it was not with the intention of living in anxiety and fear but rather in boldness and victory.  Many of us have probably heard the old statistic that “fear not” is in the Bible 365 times to give us a daily reminder to not fear.  Whether or not that translation statistic is true, fear is a part of life, like hunger or thirst, and will come regardless of whether or not we participate in it or not.  Fear is inescapable, however being controlled by that fear is not.

We have within us the capacity to step outside of that fear, on faith, and experience the fullness of what God intends for each of us.  We’re told as much repeatedly in the Biblical writings, like 2 Timothy 1:7 or Romans 8:15.   You, me, we each possess a spirit of power within us to overcome that fear and move through our lives with boldness and excitement.  It is extremely hard and may take a long time, but it is possible.  Don’t be crippled by your fear, but be bold in hope so that fear may be overcome.

It took me six years to overcome the fear of that fateful bike accident.  The tiny scars on my skinned knee faded and the pain I felt at the base of that tree turned into memory, but even still I had allowed it to control me for too long.  But the day I got back on that bike and started riding was one of the best feelings of my life.  I kept riding, got rather good at riding with no hands, and even spectacularly crashed a couple more times.  But I’m still riding to this day.  Overcoming fear is a lot like riding a bike, once you do it the first time you never really forget.

Josh Godwin

There a handful of things in this life I truly love: my God, my wife, my dog, my town, my Cheerwine. I also love ministering with teenagers to help them realize God's love and everything God made them to be.

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