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The Training Wheel Surprise

(a Steve Orr Lent reflection)


I fell—a lot. 


My first bicycle, a Sears 26-inch JC Higgins, was too big for me. I had to stand on something so I could climb up on it. And, once on it, I could not keep it upright. That didn't keep me from trying, but I fell—a lot. Every single time I pedaled a few turns, I started to tumble. This kept me close to home; that way I could always tumble onto our raised lawn.


Into this problem stepped my father.  


One Saturday, he called me out front to show me that he had installed training wheels on my bike. That was great! I still needed a step to climb on, but the addition meant the bike stayed upright. Dad gave me only one rule: whenever I got off the bike, I had to use the kickstand. He said that would keep the training wheels from wearing out. 

For the first few minutes, I just sat there on my stable bike, luxuriating in the realization that I was not going to topple over.  


And then I took off.


I rode all over the neighborhood on that bike. For days—and then weeks—I soared, my confidence placed firmly in those training wheels to keep me aloft. It was the freedom I had dreamed of. 


This was joy.


One morning, after having come back from a ride, I carefully climbed off the bike, hooked the kickstand down with my sneaker, and turned to find Dad standing in my path.  


He said, "How was the ride?"


"Great!" I replied.


"So, no problems riding without the training wheels?"


I whipped around and saw, to my horror, that there were no training wheels on my bike! I was shocked. I could have fallen!


"You took off the training wheels!" I accused. 


"A week ago," he replied.


More shock! I had been riding without them for a week! 


Dad never intended for me to rely on those training wheels. Like Stephen Covey wrote decades later, Dad began “with the end in mind." Every two or three days, he had raised those training wheels ever so slightly. Finally, at some point, they stopped touching the ground when I rode the bike. And, because he had insisted I always use the kickstand, I never noticed that the bike could no longer stand on its own.


It is like this with God and us.  


God began a work within each of us "with the end in mind." God knows we have to make the journey. God knows we will encounter things that, initially, we just cannot do without assistance. And God ensures we get that assistance. But the objective is that we outgrow the need for that help. We must then keep growing so we can become someone else's assistance.


So, don’t be surprised to find in this week’s Ephesians passage that long ago God prepared good deeds for each of us to do. Don’t be surprised that God crafted positive actions specific to you, for you to do. Rather, be encouraged: It means God thinks you're ready.  


And be curious. Start looking around. The surprise is not that God will remove our “training wheels” at some point. The surprise is that God’s training process will turn you into someone else’s training wheels!

So, get ready. Someone needs their training wheels—and you’re up!


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