For Wilshire Baptist Church
It’s one of my favorite and most vivid early memories: The handlebars quit gyrating, the front wheel quit wobbling, and I felt the glorious magic of perfect balance on a bicycle.
The moment came on the sidewalk in front of our house on Salem Drive in Richardson. I don’t recall how old I was or how long that first solo ride lasted. I suspect it ended at the next driveway where I probably jumped off, turned the bike around, and launched myself toward home. Soon would come confident turns and controlled breaking and then longer distances. By third grade I was riding my bike a mile to school, and in junior high I was riding all over town with my best friend Ken. And then came a hot August day in our late 20s when we rode from Waco to Richardson on the back roads of Texas. I’ve never ridden that far since, but only needed to do it once to know I could.
Today cycling is one of the few exercises I do because it’s one of the few I enjoy. And whenever I’ve come back to it from a hiatus, I always relive that memory of that first moment of balance. As I start riding I look down at my front tire turning and I feel once more that magic. I felt it again on Memorial Day when LeAnn and I rode around White Rock Lake after too much time off the bikes.
I don’t have a specific memory of being pushed forward on that first solo ride but I know it was my father because that’s what he would have done. I know it wasn’t my older brother because at that age he was riding his own bike. A dozen years later, however, he tossed me the car keys and let me drive when I wasn’t legal. We were doing fine until we passed our parents going the other way. It didn’t last long but my brother gets points for that moment of freedom.
These memories have come around with my brother’s 60th birthday on Saturday and the next day being Father’s Day. Of all the people who have taught me how to stay balanced, these two men have taught me the most. My father provided the fatherly examples that one would expect, while my brother showed me the dos and don’ts of being a teenager and a young adult.
They’ve both impacted my vocation even though it’s been different from theirs. My father might have done more with his career but he always put his family first. My brother turned down lucrative work as a performer when it didn’t match his Christian witness. They’ve both been content and satisfied with God’s provision. They’re both wealthy in ways the world doesn’t understand.
But in addition to lessons on balance, they’ve shown me what to do when the wheels come off and you crash to the ground. Like when my sister died or my father lost his job and later had heart surgery. Or my brother’s marriage ended and he had his own serious health issues. They both brushed themselves off and got going again, propelled by a faith in a God that has always given them the push forward that leads to balance.
I’ve only fallen off a bike once that I can recall, and it’s a bit of a mystery. I was a teen, riding in front of my junior high, and the next thing I knew I was flat on my back with the bike on top of me. The block was deserted and nobody saw me fall; the street was clean and there was nothing that caused me to fall. All I can figure is perhaps I passed out, but I’ll never know for sure. I do know that I got up, checked myself for scrapes, made sure the bike was OK, and I rode home.
I’ve fallen plenty of times figuratively since then – sometimes from my own carelessness, sometimes because there’s debris in the road, and sometimes for no particular reason. But I’ve learned from father and brother to trust in the God who knows the way back to perfect balance.