I’m not a very extroverted person. When necessary I can whip out the excitement and small talk, but I just really don’t enjoy it.
Whenever I’m in big crowds or surrounded by a bunch of new people, my brain kind of just shuts off. Does that happen to anyone else? If people look towards me and expect me to speak, incoherent strings of words run through my brain and out of my mouth, I turn red and start sweating. Not just your average glistening-forehead amount of sweat either. I’m talking SULA’s*, sticky pits, and moist cheeks that all culminate together to display a nervous and clammy individual.
*SULA – Sweaty upper lip alert. Yep.
Over the years though, I’ve learned to almost… fake it till I make it. I wear my most genuine smile (though I strongly dislike small talk, I think it’s still an important skill to have), enthusiastically make an effort to bring up interesting topics, ask people about themselves, and trick my body into feeling comfort until I am actually at ease around each group of new people.
With all that being said, I truly cherish the times I can be myself with another person and leave the small talk and sweat at home. I only encounter these moments with a few of my closest and most trusted friends. One of my college friends, ‘Hank’ (not his real name), and I have been great pals since the middle of my freshman year. We try and get together every now and then to just sit and talk about life. This is sometimes a little difficult, with us both being fairly busy with class, meetings, work and the like.
But when we do get the chance we talk about everything. In this case, everything includes what’s been up, what’s been down and all other elevations of life in between.
The last time we met up was about 2 weeks ago, and this time we focused on the downs. I let Hank in on something that I had been struggling with basically the entire semester.
I was in a spiritual pit. A pit that I had no idea how to climb out of & no earthly clue to why God was putting me through it.
I told him of my lack of passion, the absent longing for Christ in my life. In my eyes podcasts, sermons, discussions and even the Bible (yikes, I know) lacked luster.
My friend is quite well read. He often regurgitates relatable scripture and quotes from his favorite author, C.S. Lewis, to me. This time, to try and ease my frustration and offer a feasible answer for the seemingly difficult trial I was going through, he put one of C.S. Lewis’s analogies into his own words. So now, I’m going to try to put his words into words for you all:
If you have a dad, or a mom, or any kind of authoritative loving figure in your life, chances are they taught you how to ride a bike. And if you had an especially good dad/mom/guardian they soon took those training wheels off and taught you how to fall off.
For this crucial turning point, they usually told you that they were going to let go after you had already reached a good momentum-at the point of no return. Now, they weren’t abandoning you, they were just trying to make sure that you would be able to go it alone the next time they weren’t there to catch you.
God’s a lot like that parent (except a tiny bit more magnificent).
Hank’s explanation of the ‘Bike Analogy’ to me was simple: He’s teaching us how to do it without Him. Not necessarily saying that God simply flat-out abandons us at times, but that He lets us go it alone so that we can figure a few things out, and return to Him stronger than we were before the experience. There comes a time when He’s not going to hold your hand through everything. And I believe there are quite a few lessons to be learned when ‘God lets us go’ that we may have never understood if He had been holding onto us the entire time.
After thinking long and hard on C.S. Lewis’s/Hank’s explanation and reasoning for the passionless pit I was in, I decided to think through the steps that I had struggled with, and the final stages that I knew I should be striving to get to. These are them:
1.Surprise. They do it when we least expect it. Your D/M/G is holding onto the bike, you feel like you’ve conquered the world (or at least mastered bike riding) and then… they let go.
The passion that had fueled your fire and yearning for Christ has been taken from you. You say: “What? I can’t go through this without that longing”. God says: “Oh, but you can, and you will”.
2. Betrayal. We feel a pang of betrayal whenever it happens. After we get over the surprise of no safety net, we turn to anger. Why would someone that loves us let us go? We trust that parent/loved one to hold onto us, to not let us fall. We believe that it is our right to be held up, and their duty to sustain our balance.
This one was the hardest one for me to get past. I honestly believed that the fire that God gave me was mine, and it was my right to have. Anger clouded my judgement and, in my mind, this ‘betrayal’ blurred God’s sovereignty over all things.
3.Realization. After the anger subsides (and a few bloody knees and hands later), we recognize that our father has been there all along. Watching. Making sure that we are still safe and out of harm’s way.
We start to realize that quitting trying to ride that bike (or carry our crosses everyday) just isn’t an option. It’s our duty to follow Christ everyday, and continue growing in Him. Even when our hearts refuse to yearn for it. “Don’t quit, even in the pit”.
4.Growth and Glory. Looking back, we understand that He was only doing what was best for us. We now know how to peddle on our own, keep our own momentum, and handle certain situations without God pushing us towards growth. We have grown up a little; we have matured; we have become more resilient. And because of that, we love Him even more still.
I have been struggling with God letting go of me and ‘my bike’ for months now. And up until a few weeks ago, I was definitely in the ‘Betrayal’ stage. I was angry. Confused. And upset. But, after my friend (and good ole’ Clive) opened my eyes to very insightful reasons for trusting my good good Father, I have been moving forward and can see myself growing closer to Him yet again even though the passion is still absent from my heart.
“In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.” – 1 Peter 5:10 NLT