Today I watched my two youngest kids while my wife was out doing a few things. Since it was a pretty nice fall day I asked the kids what they wanted to do and they decided that wanted to take a bike ride. However, when they say bike ride it means that I ride my bike and they sit in the trailer and tell me to go faster.
We took a nice ride to a park nearby and then we rode to a grocery store to get a few things for lunch. After loading up the trailer with the kids and groceries we began the ride back home. I always dread riding the final road to my house because it is a long hill and I am out of shape. We started climbing the hill and I usually turn onto a side street (because I am lazy) which allows me to go a longer route but it is a little more gradual, but today I decided to go straight up instead.
As I rode up the hill dragging my children behind me, I remembered what some advice that an old friend told me. I say old because we were friends for a long time, but also because he was…well…old. Bill Adams and I became friends when he was well over 70 years old and I was probably 15 or 16. Bill and I would ride together from time to time and he always took the opportunity to give me tips and pointers on how to ride.
One day he decided to teach me how to climb hills on the bike. Now I was a teenager that knew everything and at that time I was riding about 50 miles a day, so I didn’t really think I would learn anything of significance. I figured the best way to climb a hill was just to muscle through it. He told me the best way to climb a big hill was to lower your head so you can only see about 10 to 15 feet in front of you and then never stop pedaling. That was it.
My logic was physical. His logic was mental.
Several days later I was riding with a friend and we came to a particularly large hill and we started climbing it. My friend and I were about the same skill level, in fact, he was probably even in better shape than I was. I figured I would give Bill’s advice a test run, so I lowered my head and started pedaling. I quickly realized that if I only looked a few feet in front of me that I couldn’t tell if I was on a hill or on the level. At times it even looked like I was going down a hill. I just pedaled and pedaled.
A few minutes into the climb I decided to sneak a peek at the peak, and after seeing it I realized that looking at the top served me no purpose at all. If I looked at the top it would be very easy for me to get discouraged and even give up. So I tucked my head again and just kept pedaling. The next thing I knew I passed the guy that I was riding with because he had pulled over on the side of the road for a break. I kept pedaling. Before I knew it I was at the top of the hill.
I looked back down and my friend was struggling to get started again. If you are stopped on a hill you will often have to turn around and go down the hill to get up some momentum and then turn around and start up again, now having even further to climb.
Bill’s words were bouncing around inside my brain today as I [slowly] pedaled my way up this hill towing my children. I realized that his wise words do not only apply to riding a bicycle they also apply to life.
Hills in Life
In life we will often come head to head with hills. Some are big and some are little. We face financial hills. Relationship hills. Hills of loss. Hills of stress. Hills of poor health. Hills of pain. Hills, hills, hills.
If we look at the entire hill in one glance it would probably be too much for us to bear. We would feel overwhelmed, discouraged and be tempted to just give up. Instead, we should just tuck our head down and focus a few feet in front and keep pedaling forward. Just put one foot in front of the next and move on. It may not be fast. It may hurt like hell. It may not be fun. You may feel like stopping, but don’t give in to that temptation! You may even feel like you are going to die (much like I did today) but if you keep pedaling YOU WILL REACH THE TOP!
[quote]But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NET)[/quote]
The interesting thing about 2 Corinthians 12:9 is that God says that he will give you the right amount of grace and strength that you need to face the hills in your life. No more. No Less. Just the right amount. I usually want everything to be easy though. God doesn’t say it will be easy, he says that he will give us the grace that we need.
Just keep pedaling.
The next application that I saw for this principle is about finding this magical, mystical, marvelous thing called “GOD’S WILL.” Pastors, especially youth pastors, like to make a big deal about finding God’s will for your life. The implication is that you will have this epiphany from God where light will shine down from heaven, there will be a musical number by the angels, and then He will show you his PLAN for your life. Then you will be happy and know everything God wants you to do.
I guess I am not spiritual enough to have one of those experiences…I still wrestle every single day with what God wants me to do with my life. For those select few that know God’s will from puberty…congrats to you. For the rest of you, it’s a little messier.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t look for God’s will or anything, I think you should, but I really don’t think God generally lays out his whole plan to us.
[quote]Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105 (NLT)[/quote]
When I read Psalm 119:105 I imagine myself hiking in the woods at night, something that I love to do, and I am carrying a flashlight…well, actually I usually wear a headlamp but whatever. I will shine the flashlight so that I can see 10 to 15 feet in front of me, so I can tell where the path goes. I also want it to be illuminated right at my feet so I don’t end up tripping over a rabid skunk, not that I have anything against rabid skunks!
It is my impression that this is similar to how God shows us his plan. He shows us just enough so we don’t stumble around aimlessly in the dark, but he is not illuminating the entire path. We don’t see where we will end up, only where our next couple of steps are.
If you are struggling to find out GOD’S WILL for your life, I would urge you to stop worrying so much about it! Read your Bible, pray and just keep pedaling. You may not see what you are supposed to do next year, next month, next week or even tomorrow! But just take the step that he has placed in front of you for today.
The final insight that I gathered from these few words of wisdom is that we shouldn’t set our plans too far into the future. I know some people who set plans and goals for a year away! Some even have plans that go further out than that! I can’t grasp that. I think it is better to make plans that are closer. This does not mean that you should set smaller goals, but just don’t push them so far out into the abysmal future.
If you were required to write a report about something, let’s say rocket surgery, do you think it would be better if you had a month to work on it or a week to work on it? Studies have shown you will generally get higher quality work with a shorter deadline. This is the basics of Parkinson’s Law.
[quote]”Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”[/quote]
With distant deadlines we will often get overly focused on insignificant details. It is better to set impossibly tight deadlines and learn to focus only on the things that are most important.
When you do have a goal or a dream don’t feel like you have to take it head on. This is like looking at the top of the hill, it will just overwhelm you. Just decide what the smallest next step is and act on that. If your dream is to launch an underwater army of zombie-pirates your first step might be to learn how to hold your breath for longer than thirty seconds!
Just take one small step, and then the next and then the next. It’s like the old groaner, “How do you eat an elephant?” One bite at a time!
Like my bike ride today, it is very tempting to stop and take a break. Don’t do it! You don’t need to pedal fast, but keep pedaling. As long as you are moving forward you are making progress. You can take turns, make corrections and avoid the potholes. But once you stop…it is far more difficult to get going again.
Just keep pedaling!