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  • Sarah Raad

Balance

“‘Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’” (John 11:14-15).

The Raising of Lazarus (Jean-Baptiste Jouvenet)

I have recently started to climb back onto my bicycle after a tremendous fall last year while I was learning to ride injured my knee in such a way that I have been physically unable to resume my bike-riding lessons since.


This has not been an easy thing for me to do. Not only am I terrified of falling again – and completely unsupported by my poor husband who cannot for the life of him understand why a woman of my age and ability is bothered to risk physical injury in order to learn something as mundane as bike-riding – but I am embarrassed. After all, I am the oldest person at the bike park near our house who is learning to ride a bicycle – I mean, there are toddlers who are whizzing around more confidently on their training wheels than I am! And when you add to this scenario the well-meaning shouting of advice from my three primary school age children – who I myself taught to ride their bikes, because let’s face it, I am better in theory than in practice – it is surely a spectacle to behold!

Let me just say the whole process has been a true – albeit completely unnecessary – lesson in humility for me.

But there I am – on the days when time permits – doggedly climbing onto that solid steel frame of that bicycle with all the determination of the mountaineers who climb Everest – that bike is surely as great a challenge for one such as me… And there I balance, setting up my pedals, and looking upwards and forwards to where I am planning to go and pedalling, pedalling, pedalling away.


As I pedal and fall and pedal and fall and climb back up and fall back down, and pedal and climb and fail, it occurs to me that there is not a lot of difference in this physical adventure of learning to ride a bicycle and the spiritual journey that I undertake on this earth…


After all, while I am learning to ride this silly bike, I have to concentrate on where my head is pointing. Over and again, my children shout out – “Look up Mum. Look to where you want to go.” That is easier said than done and requires quite a bit of faith… After all, every natural instinct that I have screeches at me to look down at my front wheel and make sure that it is not going over any bumps that could disrupt my already precarious balance. And the more I look down, the less I balance…


This is exactly like my spiritual life. I spend so much energy trying to tell God what is best for me. How I must amuse my Beloved… I am surely like a toddler trying to justify why she needs the extra cookie, when my mother knows it will interfere with my dinner and therefore disrupt their appetite and proper nutrition. Or to give another example along the same vein, I am surely like my eldest child, who so desperately wants a mobile phone to be just like his friends at school, but for the life of him cannot justify why it is necessary for a child that spends all his time either with his parents or at school…


And so, as I practice with that bicycle, I try to look up – because when I look for bumps in the road I lose my balance and invariably fall. And that inspires me to look up towards God too… After all, I who have no control over the bumps or even over my direction, and since I cannot prevent the bumps and cannot gain the strength required to endure them, surely I should focus on my Beloved – because He can do all things!


But there is something else about bike riding that I have noticed over the last few weeks and that is that you have to really COMMIT to it. I am not talking about the kind of commitment required of ongoing practice – although that too is necessary – I am talking about committing to the activity once you are underway. My biggest problem to date has been that though I pedal two or three times in a row, I very quickly become afraid, and instead of committing to further pedalling when I feel that fear, I start to slow down. Now, according to my children, this is the kiss of death for my bike-riding balance. In trying to control my balance by riding slowly, I am simply losing all control because paradoxically good balance requires a little speed to ensure that the bicycle continues to move. This is why – I am told – you never see anyone sitting on a bicycle standing still.


This is very similar to my movements in my spiritual life… Prior to my conversion last year – which occurred through Grace and no merit of my own – the fear caused by the loss of my child before he was even born caused me to slow down with my praying… not speed up. Looking back at my former self I can see the same pedal-pushing paradox here! If instead of slowing down at that time of fear I had increased my prayer I would have grown in faith rather than shrunk in it. I berated myself continually for this and continue to atone for my loss of faith. And yet, the other day as I was reflecting on the Gospel passage that speaks of Christ raising Lazarus from the dead, I realised that sometimes – as in the case with Lazarus – God allows death to occur so that the actual miracle of new life will be more firmly established and we can marvel more worthily!

Now, I consider that perhaps my Beloved delayed in coming to me, as he delayed in attending to Lazarus – so that AFTER MY FAITH WAS DEAD it could be revived and the miracle obtained and the glory of God would be more profound and more easily attributable to Him…

“So then He told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’” (John 11:14-15).


And so, as I wobble my way around the bike-park, to the exuberant cheers of my children, I can feel my Beloved with me – balancing me as He has always done – leading me home…


For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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