When people say, “it’s as easy as riding a bike” I want to punch them in the face. Don’t get me wrong, I used to be one of those people who overused that phrase. “It’s super easy! Trust me, it’s JUST like riding a bike!” But all of this positive pep talk changed the day I learned – brace yourself now – I can’t actually ride a bike.
Yes, you’ve heard me correctly. So the term that is “easy” isn’t very relatable to me. No, it’s not easy. In fact, it can be quite terrifying.
It’s not like I never learned how to ride a bike, because I did. I was so excited when I got my first bicycle. I had begged and begged my parents for one and on Christmas morning, there it was – a yellow and white Minnie Mouse bicycle with a white basket and pink flowers. I still remember how it felt riding up and down my street with the warm breeze against my face, completely fearless. There was nothing I couldn’t do, no imagination destination I couldn’t peddle to when I was on my bike.
A few years ago, my friends and I were at the lake for the weekend and I suggested we take the bicycles out from the shed and ride around. It had rained the day before, but, today, the weather was perfect – blue skies, slight breeze – and we were all excited to have a nice day outside. My friend rolled them out of the shed and there were just enough for each of us to ride. One by one each person got on their designated bike and began pedaling in a circle around the parking lot. Everyone, that is, except for me.
For no reason whatsoever I suddenly became fear-stricken. What if I don’t remember how to ride a bike? I’m going to embarrass myself in front of everyone. These thoughts rushed through my brain. Literally out of nowhere, this fear of not knowing if I would get hurt or not began to cripple me. I hadn’t ridden a bicycle since I was in middle school, but surely that wouldn’t mean I would forget how to ride one, right?
“Get on the bike, Sarah!”
“I can’t. I’m scared.”
The next 10 minutes consisted of my friends giving me a pep talk. It started out sweet and eventually the encouragement turned ugly.
“Don’t worry, it’s easy, see!”
“You know how to ride a bike, stop scaring yourself. It’s okay!”
“Sarah, stop being a baby, it’s not that big of a deal. SARAH. Get on the bike and just ride!”
But even with the (ahem) overwhelming love that flowed all around me like a giant hug, I couldn’t bring myself to get on the bike.
Have you ever felt this way in life? The paralyzing fear to not try something because you’re so afraid of what may (or may not) happen. You’re crippled by the “what-if scenario”; the one that convinces you you’re going to fail, you’re going to get hurt, and you’re going to look like a fool. And even if the facts stack up in your favor, the voice in your head repeats over and over to you: “You can’t do this. You can’t do this. You. Will. Fall.”
After some coaxing and mental determination that I wasn’t going to be the only one in the group not to participate, I got on the bicycle. It felt amazing! It was exactly as I remembered it to be; I felt like a kid again! I steadily pedaled a few feet and breathed a sigh of relief. No one had to know all the silly fears that had been running through my head just seconds earlier. So, we all took off toward the road, laughing and soaking in the warm breeze against our faces.
Then out of nowhere, a voice started to creep into my head.
Be careful. If you fall, you’re going to hurt yourself and it’s going to be extremely painful.
Seriously Sarah, are you sure you can do this?
I tried to ignore it, but the voice got louder.
Grip the handlebars as tightly as possible. You don’t want to lose control. Or balance. Trust me, you don’t want to know what happens then!!!
I’m just saying, it would really suck right now if there was a spider crawling up your arm. Wait, is that a piece of lint or a…
That’s the moment I let the voices get to me.
I let out a high pitch, curdling, full-out embarrassing, scary movie scream for absolutely no reason. As I screamed, my friends shouted that I was on the wrong side of the road. Everything happened quickly after that. I heard the sound of a passing car and I panicked. One foot wanted to pedal, the other wanted to brake and without the proper guidance, the bicycle tilted underneath me and, like a fool, I let go of the handles in surrender.
So, naturally, I fell.
And I kept falling.
Down the hill, through sticks and mud, screaming my final words of departure from this world all the way down. Fortunately, my natural athleticism saved me from breaking any bones (no, not really). I limped back to the cabin, mortified and angry and with a pretty large gash of blood streaming down my leg.
This story is embarrassing for me for several reasons:
One – It makes me look like an idiot.
Two – I ended up getting hurt and proving that I really can’t ride a bike. And riding a bike is easy, right?
I let fear get the best of me. I became so afraid I would get hurt, that I did get hurt. And that’s exactly what happens in our lives if we let it. Whether it’s being afraid to take a chance in a relationship, worrying that people will judge you for being different or refusing to take a risk in fear of the unknown, whatever it is, we play into our fears. And when we give into it, we ultimately get hurt in spite of ourselves.
John 4:18 tell us that there is no fear in love; perfect love casts out fear. So often I play into my fears both big and small and I get so consumed by these fears that trusting in the bigger picture – the perfect love of Jesus – is the last thing on my mind. But the truth is we have absolutely nothing to fear. There is no risk too high, no dream too big, no broken heart or broken bone that is too much for our God to handle.
There is no guarantee in life that we won’t hypothetically (or literally) fall off our bicycles. There is no guarantee of success or failure when we are riding into the unknown. The point of it all isn’t to be frustrated by uncertainty, live in fear and give up but instead, to live beyond our fears. And if we do fall, we dust ourselves off and try again.
Here’s the challenge – think of something you’re afraid of trying and go for it. Yes, I’m talking leaning in fully and jumping in. Don’t let the fear of failure, or the reality of it, keep you from experiencing your ultimate bike adventure. It’s time we pulled our bicycles out of the shed, feel the breeze against our faces and be fearless. It will a little scary and it won’t be easy, but like I said, riding a bike never is.
Photo Credit: Chris Gray