The axiom “old habits die hard” is maddeningly accurate. We earnestly desire to do better, yet stumble over the same issues time and again. With each successive failure, the frustration level rises, and not surprisingly, a medley of recurring notions begins to surface: “If I truly loved Jesus, I wouldn’t behave this way.” “It feels like God is always angry with me.” “It’s hopeless. I’ll never overcome (pick your poison).” Common thoughts for many, but all untrue.
Picture for a moment a five year old boy experiencing the freedom and challenge of riding his first bicycle without training wheels. He bolsters his resolve, makes a running leap onto the seat, and with a single revolution of the pedals, crashes to the pavement. This entire process repeats several times, until predictably a first class knee scrape and a piteous wail ensue. We’ve all been there–and have the scars to prove it. But wait! This storyline has an unfamiliar twist. The young child in our story, full of shame over his repeated failures, reluctantly approaches his father and pleads, “Daddy, I fell off my bike. Please don’t be angry with me.” What an odd concern. It would never occur to the fathers I know to be angry with their child under such circumstances. To the contrary, they would offer their reassurance, bandage the wound, and gently encourage their beloved child back onto the bike. Angry? Hardly. Loving fathers well understand that falling down is a necessary part of learning to ride. Moreover, they knew this long before they removed the training wheels.
By now you recognize where I’m going with this. The parallels to our own journey of faith are clear enough. When our heavenly Father gave us the gift of free will, He knew we would ultimately stray (scripturally, sin), and thus bear the unpleasant consequences that follow. He also understood that this was the requisite path we must travel if we were to ever learn to experience the fullness of life as He intended.
Make no mistake, life without training wheels is a challenging pilgrimage. It’s never fun to fall (especially repeatedly so). But when we do, it’s important to recognize that we don’t face an angry God who looks down at us with contempt. We have an understanding Father who knows we are still young and who longs for us to open our hearts and turn to Him. “For we do not have a high priest [Jesus] who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”-Hebrews 4:15-16
With this invitation in mind, the next time we’re tempted to berate ourselves over some timeworn sin, let’s consider the choice before us: to hide away in shame and declare ourselves unworthy of God’s love and redemption, or to return to receive a Father’s embrace, allow Him to dress our wounds, and place our trust back in the hands of the merciful Father, who loves us now and always will, scrapes and all. Easy choice. Let’s ride!
I hope this encourages you today.
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