The warm breeze caressed my face and bare arms as I pedaled. Smooth was not a word I’d have used to describe this ride on my old bike. But, hey! My old bike didn’t have shocks like these. Despite feeling like the seat had been adjusted too high for me, (away from the stops at intersections) I was sailing. Smoothly.
I never knew biking could feel so good. My memories of riding bike involved a sore butt and tingling fingers. It was never a pleasant experience. Oh, but now. Dreams of long bike rides for picnics and sightseeing danced inside my new merlot-coloured helmet. This was a whole different cruise port!
I stopped to take a selfie. I posted it on Instagram with the caption, “Maiden voyage home on my new wheels!” My smile was big. I was king of the world!
Just outside my condo complex, I had to ride on the sidewalk leading up to the gate. An elderly gentleman piloted his walker ahead of me, at more of an air-balloon-speed. I slowed and rode off the sidewalk onto the grass to go around him. His wife smiled and thanked me for respecting his space.
I went a meter or so ahead of him before reentering the sidewalk, not wanting to cut him off. I didn’t see the gap between the edge of the concrete and the ground, masked as it was with the green grass, until my tire wedged there, parallel to the sidewalk, and refused to go any further. If my seat had been a little lower, I might have caught myself. But this was not the case. We both went down – me and my brand-new bike. The concrete was far from cushiony, and my pride took a huge blow too.
Mr Walker’s wife was now concerned as I popped up like a jack-in-the-box repeating a curious phrase: “I’m alright. I’m alright.” Curious, because I wasn’t sure if it was true.
I walked my bike the few meters to the gate, testing out my legs. Kids fall off their bikes all the time, right? Once inside the grounds, I got on and rode it into the garage. Everything seemed fine – both of us.
I locked my new bike on the wall in the bike room and looked for damage. I wiped each scuff off with a gentle brush of my fingers. I breathed a sigh of relief – no real damage done. Just a terribly embarrassing moment.
In the elevator, I decided not to tell anyone, unless the road burns and bruises became too noticeable to ignore. I went about my day, watching the bruises darken and feeling a strange pain in my arm when I moved it a certain way or lifted something heavy.
We weren’t finished bike shopping just yet, however. The sales guy at the store had informed Hubby that their other location might have the male version of my bike in stock – just one, of course, so speed was of the essence. The pandemic was great for bike sales in this city. I encouraged him to get the bike, since the first shopping expedition had actually been a search for a bike for him. How did I end up coming home with one??
We plucked a few more leaves from the money tree and bought a new bike for Hubby too. What a day!
“Let’s plan a picnic!” I said excitedly.
I picked up some wraps, a veggie and hummus tray, and a bag of kettle chips. We set out with our backpacks bulging with the food, drinks, a picnic blanket and a deck of cards; all the picnic essentials.
The paths behind our condo go for miles along the Rideau River and are ideal for biking. And it was late enough in the evening for the foot and bike traffic to have thinned. I took the lead and sailed down the trail, happy that my earlier spill was a thing of the past, and my bike seat was now a couple inches lower.
Yes! This was the feeling I had just before my selfie. Just before my fall.
Behind me, however, Hubby recommended changing my gears to be even more comfortable. I was doing a little more coasting than necessary. To be honest, I’d only used about four of my 21 speeds on my old bike, because I hadn’t really learned how to use it properly.
I suggested we pull off in the next clearing. I handed my bike to Hubby, asking him to change gears for me, and then to show me how he did it. He rode a few meters away, the bike making unnatural grinding sounds as he worked the gears. There was an unhealthy SNAP! which threw everything into silence. Hubby’s face was the first clue that something was terribly wrong. The fact that he dismounted and lifted the back wheel off the ground while pushing the bike back to me was the second.
Not only was the chain dangling, but the whole gear mechanism hung off the bike. On closer inspection, we saw that a metal bolt had actually broken in half!
Shame hit me like a snapping bolt as I realized that he blamed himself for breaking my new bike. I confessed immediately, of course, admitting that I had had an accident earlier that day which likely caused this. Always loving and supportive, he tried to make me feel better by putting the fault elsewhere – the bike wasn’t made well, the parts were cheap, and/or he’d been too aggressive with the attempt to change gears. But deep down, I knew.
We pulled out the blanket and had our picnic in the clearing which, while not our original destination, had a lovely view of the river. I didn’t have much of an appetite, however, and playing a game of cards was no longer on the agenda.
Hubby rode home and drove the SUV back to meet me. He picked us up as the sun bid the day farewell, and we took my broken bike home in the back of the car.
At the bike shop the next morning, the service guy, an expert on bikes, having done a full inspection less than 24 hours before on my bike, knew that it had been involved in a trauma. My fall had caused the breakdown. He claimed he could fix it, but it’s been a full week since we left it with him. I can’t help but feel like I’m being punished for hiding my crash.
My mom used to quote a verse to us when we were younger: “Be sure your sin will find you out!” (Numbers 32:23). I never knew what the context of that verse was, but what it meant in our house was that we couldn’t hide our wrongdoings for long. I was sure my mother had supernatural qualities that helped her know everything. Hiding was useless. And, since moms are always right, it was true in this case as well – not a sin, but a fall, a slip-up, a failure.
I’m also reminded of a story that I had on a children’s record, told by a lady named Aunt B. The little boy found a baby snake and, despite being told to get rid of it, he kept it in the family’s barn. He fed it and cared for it, in secret, until it was fully grown. Then one day, the snake attacked his little sister, and she nearly died.
When the mother realized he had disobeyed and kept the snake, she quoted James 1:14-16:
“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”English Standard Version
As Christians, when we fall off our metaphorical bikes, we can’t torture ourselves too badly when gravity (our sinful nature) plays a big role in our crashes. We mess up. We don’t try to fail – we don’t set out to do that – but sometimes we fall. We get up, brush ourselves off, and insist that we’re okay. And on the outside, we might look okay.
Yet, like my bike, that action can weaken some important unseen parts and, if they’re not dealt with properly, a second stressful event could destroy me. Hidden sin can grow and become lethal. And, while my mother may not really have supernatural powers, my heavenly Father does, and He sees that first fall, whether I admit it to Him or not.
We’d also like to think that we can handle things on our own – sweep things under the rug, so we can deal with them independently. No one needs to know I messed up. While it looks like we’ve got it all together, we are not doing ourselves a favour to shut out our Father. He’s not going to be disappointed in us for falling – He’s going to be happy that we asked for His helping hand to pick us up.
Jesus came to save me from myself. I slip. I fall. I fail – well, I feel like a failure. I forget that I don’t have to be perfect to somehow earn acceptance from God. In my new favourite book, Grace for the Good Girl, Emily P. Freeman says, “We believe our mistakes discredit, our failures disqualify, and our lack proves our worthlessness.”
No! In her chapter on forgiveness, she says:
“With Christ, we can release the right to be perfect and never mess up. We can release the right to pay for our own failure. And we can release those around us from having to pay for their failures as well.”
So, instead of hiding my sins and letting them grow into bigger problems, I quickly talk to my Dad. He loves me unconditionally, gently placing a band aid on my boo-boos and holding me in his lap while I confess my slip-ups. He repairs my bike and encourages me to get back on.
Who wouldn’t want a Father like that?
“God is good, a hiding place in tough times. He recognizes and welcomes anyone looking for help, no matter how desperate the trouble.”Nahum 1:7 The Message
“I’ve thrown myself headlong into your arms – I’m celebrating your rescue.”Psalm 13:5 The Message