“‘If you love Me, keep My commands. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth…’” (John 14:15-16).
During the first few weeks of the most recent Sydney lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic – because we were not able to socialise due to government restrictions – my husband and I decided to take our three primary-school aged children for a bike ride at a bike park near our home.
My children and my husband are expert bike riders, and the children love riding their bikes across to their grandparent’s home and around the neighbourhood. But on that Sunday afternoon at that bike-park things were really very different from an ordinary Sunday afternoon ride on the leafy footpaths. After all, the bike-park is designed for stunt riding, not an easy Sunday afternoon stroll.
The course starts with a hugely steep drop that is designed for the bike-rider to gain speed so that they can fling themselves over each of the hills throughout the course without stopping or slowing down or even pedalling very much.
Many bike riders on that course are very impressive to watch. After all, some of the more experienced teenagers on the course can ride on their front wheel, back wheel, and literally jump from the peak of one hill on the course to the next.
When my children arrived there on that Sunday afternoon, there were three very different reactions... My eldest son, who is 11 years old, jumped on his bike, scooted down the hill and started working on his jumps without a backward glance at me. My youngest daughter, who is eight years old, hesitated and cried a little in fear and asked me to hold her bike for her before she launched herself off – finally – using both brakes simultaneously and going so slowly down that first hill that she was forced to push the bike up every other hill of the course because she was unable to gain enough speed. My second son, who is turning 10 years old soon, took one look at that first massive drop and said, “No thanks Mum. I don’t want to die or break a bone. I’m not going down there today.”
Now, I could have left him to it. I could have said, “Never mind. I know it’s scary. Just don’t worry about riding down there today. It’s pretty hard and you don’t need to bother with it anyway.”
But – of course – I did no such thing. Instead, I spoke to him and cheered him on and encouraged him and persuaded him and watched the other riders with him and waited a while.
Finally – just when I thought he would never actually dare to do it – he decided that he would give it a go. Off he went down that first steep hill, too slowly though and got jammed as he went along. His dad raced down after him on his own bike and talked him through the next part of the track and off they went together – slow and steady.
That was the first time. But not the last.
Over the afternoon, each of the children repeated their ride over the course over and over again. And each of them gradually got better.
And as I stood there watching and cheering them on from the sidelines, it occurred to me, that this is how it is with God. For, we each of us are at different stages of our spiritual journey and we each of us get the help that we need.
Some of us – like those teenagers – are the great Saints. They are very very very good at what they do. Those Saints who are formally recognised by the Church and who are held up for the rest of us as examples of holiness upon which we can model our own lives to please God. Those are the Saints…
Some of us – like my eldest son – are simply ready to get started and we can stand back and let them go. Those are the people who openly live their faith and practise virtue to ensure that they grow closer to God. These are the saints with a lower-case “s”. They are holy in a way that may never be formally recognised by the Church, but they are known to those around them as good people. Those are the saints…
Some of us – like my youngest daughter – are simply not ready to be pushed further than they can manage right now. We try our best and have a fairly good attempt, but one day – not today – we will be ready for a little more pressure so that we can live up to our full potential for God. These are the spiritual children, the undeveloped ones, who need a little more time and a little more testing to become soldiers of God. Those are the children…
Some of us – like my second son – are simply in need of some extra Grace and support to ensure that they can do what God knows they are capable of. Without that Grace we would not even have the courage to try at all. And then once we do get started, we need God to stay close to us – without Him we are nothing and fall apart at the very first hurdle. Those are the children of God…
I guess that is why Christ said…
“‘If you love Me, keep My commands. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see Me anymore, but you will see Me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has My commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me. The one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love them and show Myself to them.’” (John 14:15-21).
For He sent us the Holy Spirit to guide us on our journey, and lead all of us home, all the way through our ride…
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.