One of the curses of thinking like a writer is the phrase that just won’t let go. I say this is a curse for several reasons. One is that quite often constructing a story to work the phrase in question into is nearly impossible, so it winds up losing its power because it gets shoehorned in where it doesn’t quite belong. Another is that sometimes even though you know a phrase is a good one, you don’t particularly feel like using it. This mainly happens with me when I know what I’m thinking is right, but I don’t want to admit it.
Case in point. Earlier today, the following phrase popped into my head: “Walking with God is like riding a bicycle.”
It sound ridiculously simple, for one thing. Walking with God requires a complex interaction of emotions and bodily control and spiritual discipline. Riding a bicycle requires, well, balance. For another, it seems incredibly clichéd. To me, comparing walking with God to just about anything we could do here on Earth seems like a gross understatement, completely lacking in the depth it needs to be accurate. It sounds like something someone would put on a meme and blast out over the internet.
At the same time, though, there is an undeniable truth within the two parallels. In both instances, there comes a time when we pretty much think we have everything figured out. We feel as if we are in control of the situation, and that nothing can topple us again. We may even start to believe we’ll never be hurt again. Of course, all of those assumptions are incorrect. We will eventually crash at some point.
I thought of this today as I was considering the ongoing struggles I have with depression in my life. A few months ago, I believed I had this thing licked. I felt as good as I ever had. My troubles seemed a million miles away. I was coping with things beautifully. And then I began to slip back into old habits. I let old thought patterns creep back in. I started to complain a little more. Next thing I knew, I was having to rebuild from the ground up again. Well, maybe not the ground up, but it sure felt that way.
Once I learned how to ride a bicycle as a kid, I went many years without falling off, save for one disastrous trail outing in which I discovered it was indeed possible for a human body to hit the ground and not bounce. I knew how to balance and pedal and accelerate and break. I couldn’t see myself wiping out again, as long as I didn’t do anything too daring. Then, one beautiful spring day a couple of years ago, as I swung my left leg over my bicycle to get on it, my foot got caught, bringing me crashing down on top of the frame. My worst biking injury in years, and I wasn’t even moving.
Did that bicycle injury mean I hadn’t ever learned to correctly ride a bike in the first place? Well, no. Did it mean all those other years of not crashing were apparitions? No, of course not. Did it mean the person who taught me to ride a bike would be totally disappointed in me? Probably not. So, conversely, does that mean if I sin or let my guard down or entertain depressing thoughts that God will turn his back on me entirely? I used to believe that was true. Today, though, as much as I want to believe that punishment is coming, I’m learning God is much more interested in seeing me get back on the bicycle than keeping me lying on the ground.
So, there. Walking with God is like riding a bicycle. Phrase used. Mission accomplished.