Bicycles & Blessings

A WORD IN SEASON

A mother tries to teach her autistic son to ride a bike and ends up on a spiritual journey of her own.

My 9-year old son, Remington, is autistic. This sometimes means that teaching him the simplest tasks can require much more effort than for an “average” child. For the past two years, I’ve been working on teaching him to ride a bike. He prefers scooter or roller skates, both of which came easily. In fact, he’s a real speed demon. When it came to bikes, however, he simply didn’t get it.

Spring after spring, I watched children two or three years younger whizzing past our house on two-wheelers. I longed for my son to experience the simple joy of riding that I loved so much when I was his age. A local group which teaches autistic kids how to ride wanted hundreds of dollars to help. I began to resign myself to the thought that perhaps it wasn’t meant to be.

Sunday afternoon was beautiful, clear and breezy. I decided to invite Remi out to the driveway for another try on his barely used bike. He complained the whole time. “What if I don’t get it?,” he asked. “What if I fall?” Up and down the drive we walked until my husband, Malcolm, suggested we head to the parking lot of a neighborhood school. Malcolm led the way on his 10-speed, followed by our 8-year-old daughter on training wheels and our 4-year-old son on his tricycle. Remi and I trailed behind, walking slowly beside his bike.

The long, rectangular parking lot was empty, except for a parked school bus and a classroom trailer at the far end. As his dad, brother and sister rode freely at the other end, I could sense Remi’s growing anxiety. You should understand that Malcolm and Remi are fiercely competitive with each other. As Malcolm whizzed by, I whispered to Remi, “When you learn how to ride, you’re going to race your dad. He’s going down! You can take him!” Everything I said, Remi promptly yelled out to his father. We even challenged his dad to a future bicycle race in May, on Remi’s 10th birthday. I needed to give him some kind of incentive.

Then Remi upped the ante. “Ok dad! If I win the race, you move to Canada! And if you win, me and mom will move to Canada!” Why my son was so willing to bet our entire family structure over a race – or why he chose Canada of all places — I have no idea. But, whatever! At least he was getting psyched.

We slowly rode along in the parking lot. Remi’s unsteady grip wiggled the handlebars as my right hand held the back of his seat. I encouraged him to keep his eyes focused on a crack in the road that stretched all the way down the lot. “Keep your eyes on the line, Remi” he repeatedly whispered to himself. “Balance the bike,” I said. “The bike only goes where you tell it.” “Bike, go left. Bike, stay straight.” He said. “Oh, I’ll never get it,” he lamented after a few near crashes.

Finally, I prayed aloud. “Holy Spirit, would you give my son a victory today? Show him that he can do all things through Christ who gives him strength.” I told Remi to repeat after me, “I can do anything through Christ.” Each time he’d get discouraged, with his dad circling — taunting him with visions of the two of us packing our bags for our long journey north — I’d say, “Remi, are you a man or a mouse?” He’d yell, “I’m a man!” and hop back up for another try.

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After about an hour, I could feel Remi starting to get his rhythm and balance. I let go. My boy took off down the lot! Within about 10 minutes he was riding right alongside his dad — talking even more trash. “Yeah, Dad. Now who’s moving to Canada?”

Off they raced. After a few minutes, I heard Remi yell, “Look mom! One hand!” I leaped in the air and shouted with victory. My son was riding a bike!!!! More importantly, he was finally experiencing the success that had eluded him for so long.

A few minutes later, my super-competitive daughter decided she wanted a taste of victory. Not to be outdone, she begged her dad to ride back home to find a wrench to remove her training wheels. Within a half-hour my daughter took off too! Imagine my joy at seeing my children sailing through the breeze, smiling and laughing at the joy of their newfound skill.

As I walked home – now trailing only my 4-year old — I reflected on these precious moments God allowed me to witness. I thought about the lessons that I could apply. You see, in addition to the dreams I have for my children, I also have personal dreams. Whether a dream for my marriage, my business or some other unmet goal, they sometimes seem to elude me. No matter how hard I’ve tried, some goals have yet to be achieved. But there are some clear spiritual parallels I’d like to share that may encourage you as you seek to make your God-given dreams and goals become a reality:

Get out of the driveway
Sometimes you must get out of your comfort zone in order to reach your goal. The “safe” place isn’t necessarily the best place to learn. Mother eagles nudge their babies out of the nest to test their ability to fly on their own. And a wise mother will put her baby’s toy slightly out of reach, simply to encourage him to crawl toward it. Likewise, God sometimes tests our desire by not allowing us to instantly attain success. He encourages us to step out of our comfort zone and walk by faith toward the goal.
During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It’s a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid." "Lord, if it’s you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." "Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.” – Matt. 14:25-29

Stay on track
I reminded Remi to focus on the crack in the parking lot, because I knew it would give him something on which to concentrate. No matter what else is going on around you, focus on the goal.
…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. — Heb. 12:2

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Don’t allow the taunts of the enemy to keep you from pursuing your goal
When self doubt and the skepticism of others who don’t know your God – or the greatness to which He has called you — start to creep in, begin thinking of the wonderful things you’ll do once you meet your goal.
David said to the Philistine, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty… This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down … and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. — I Sam. 17:45-46

Be encouraged by the success of others
When my daughter saw what her brother could achieve, she was eager to experience the same. Never allow envy to rob you of the joy of celebrating with others. Instead let their success motivate you. Let it remind you that the One who has the power to bless others can also bless you.
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened…If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" – Luke 11:9-13

Remember that you’re not alone
As you travel the sometimes uncertain path toward your goals and dreams, remember that God’s hand steadies you. You may feel wobbly. But, praise God, you won’t fall! He has promised to protect you and has given his Holy Spirit and His word to serve as your guide.
“If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.” – Ps. 37: 23, 24

Never give up on your dream…God can do it and so much more!!!
If I had given up on the belief that my son would ride a bike, if I had talked myself out of pushing him to try, I might never have seen him accomplish that goal. Nor would my daughter have pushed herself to learn.
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen. – Eph. 3:20, 21

Where is your dream? Does it sit dusty with cobwebs, somewhere in the hidden corners of your mind? Was it left outside to rust and corrode in the harsh elements? Are you scared to try again because you’ve fallen off so many times before? Have you allowed others to convince you that it will never come to pass? Or are you stuck in the yard, watching people much younger (or seemingly less talented or anointed) whiz by?

Pick up your dream. Carefully dust it off and inflate its tires. Get out of the driveway of your complacency and center yourself in a place where all you can see is Christ. Ask the Master to teach you how to ride. When the enemy taunts you and reminds you of your past, remind him of his future! And trust that in due time, you’ll be coasting toward your goal.

And soon enough, you’ll be saying, “Look, Ma! No hands!”

S. Kristi Douglas is director of Seasons Events, a not-for-profit event-planning ministry for women of faith. Seasons Events specializes in planning and hosting conferences, retreats, networking and other events for faith-based organizations and individuals. For more information: www.seasonsevents.biz or email skdouglas@seasonsevents.biz.

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