Boys, Bikes, and Bumper Cars

LeeAnne and I contributed a few pages to LIFE WITH CHRIST, a collection of teaching and testimonies by various authors. Our chapter is called Boys, Bikes, and Bumper Cars. Here is the first half of that chapter written by Gary. If you want to read LeeAnne’s half, you’ll have to buy the book.:

During the summer, when my boys were ten and twelve, I looked out the back window to see my youngest son on top of the shed roof. His bike was beside him. My oldest son was on the sidewalk, passing his bicycle up to his brother. I asked the air, “What on earth are they doing?” But I already had a pretty good idea as I ran to the back door. I stepped out onto the deck in time to see my boys, side by side on the shed roof, peddling like crazy towards the edge.

The drop was eight feet (2.4 m) and, as they fell, they were both peddling like the speed of their spinning feet had some way of reversing the pull of gravity. The tires hit the ground, squished almost flat, and then launched the bikes skyward. My oldest son managed to stay on his bike although it swerved violently and he almost went head on into the fence. My youngest son flew sideways off his bike and rolled, bum over tea kettle, across the lawn. They were both laughing hilariously.

“What on earth are you doing?” I demanded, even though I had guessed before I’d reached the door, and then just witnessed the daredevil stunt with my own eyes.

They had seen me step out on the deck and seemed proud to perform their stunt for me so, no doubt, my question confirmed my children’s belief that I was blind or, at the very least, mentally challenged.

“We are riding our bikes off the shed,” they answered as if this was a perfectly normal thing to do.

“What were you thinking?” I demanded. “You could get hurt. I don’t want you doing that ever again.”

“But Dad, we’ve been doing this for months,” my youngest son admitted.

Suddenly the lights went on in my head and I understood why I had repaired so many flat tires and twisted handle bars. “Well, don’t do it anymore.”

Even as I said those words, I remembered what it was like to be fearless. I used to be like my boys, unafraid of anyone or anything. Yes, I’ve done some stupid things. And I’ve done some very brave things. My children reminded me of something that had been eroding away out of my life.

I took my bike out of the shed and the boys and I rode to the ruins of an old coal mine. There, at the edge of the top of the river valley was a pit, thirty-feet (9 m) across, with sides so steep you cannot climb out without help. It was as deep as it was wide.

“Follow me,” I ordered. “And pedal like crazy when you reach the bottom. Don’t stop peddling.” Then I rode over the edge.

It felt like falling face first into blackness. The bottom rushed towards me and suddenly the bike was under me and I was zipping across the bottom. A second later, the bike was shooting up the other side like a rocket heading for the sun. I almost forgot my advice and had to start peddling. I heard my oldest son whooping with delight as he descended behind me as my bike went airborne at the top of the pit. I braked the second I landed and I rode my bike out of the way.

A few seconds later, my twelve-year old crested the pit even as my youngest nose-dived towards the bottom. The ten-year old made it almost to the top, ran out of steam, and dumped the bike. I caught him by the arm and pulled him up. His bike slid to the bottom and it took a bit of effort to bring it up. Then we took turns riding through the pit until we were almost too tired to pedal home.

The Internet is full of videos of people doing extreme sports and crazy, risk-filled things. We call them adrenaline junkies. If we are not joining them, we get a rush just watching them do their death-defying stunts. I’m not encouraging you to take up extreme skateboarding or hang gliding. I’m asking, “When was the last time you were fearless for God?”

Psalm 18:29 says with God’s help we can charge into an oncoming army and cut a swath right through them. Then we can scale the castle wall and take the enemy’s fortress too. This same verse is in 2 Samuel 22:30. The words are by King David, a person scripture calls a man after God’s heart, so it is safe to say it is our Heavenly Father’s wish for us to be fearless, courageous and unstoppable. The Bible is full of “fear not” verses and stories of God’s supernatural intervention into people’s lives.

Where do we find most Christians? In 1 Samuel 13:9 it tells us that when adversity came, people hid themselves in cellars, pits and caves. How many enemies does it take to keep you in a pit? Just one. In fact, just the fear that there might be an enemy waiting at the mouth of the cave would keep most people captive. We are often captives of fear even though no enemy is waiting.

I get it. I can’t tell you how many sermon’s I’ve heard where the preacher tells the congregation to try harder, do better, and quit sinning. And everyone hangs their heads in shame, knowing they deserve to stay hidden in the pit. I hate to say it, but many times churches become the caves where like-minded and fearful people gather to wait until Jesus comes back or death takes them. Now it looks like I am telling you, “Be brave. Quit being a coward.”

My beautiful wife told me, not so long ago, “If you had been born in King David’s time, you would have been one of his mighty men. I have no doubt you would have stood in a bean field with a sword in your hand and taken on the whole army of the Philistines single handed.”

Her kind words are extremely humbling. I have been terrified many times. When I forget I am a King’s kid, I want to run and hide. When I think everything depends on me, I want to play it safe and surround myself with the familiar. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t offend anyone. Don’t stir anything up. Don’t take chances. For heaven’s sake, don’t be brave in talking about Jesus. Don’t be radical. And, whatever you do, don’t challenge the enemy. Duck back down the pit.

However, when I remember my papa-God is standing at the top of the pit to pull me out if I dump my bike over, then I have confidence. I know He will even go down into the pit to pull out the things that are worth saving. When I am going through the valley, it isn’t about me. When everything is sunshine, it isn’t about me either. Being my Daddy’s son has nothing to do with my actions.