Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Plaster, pain, and mountain biking

We sit on the couch and he tells me about his life group leaders training meeting. "They want us to keep our eyes open when we pray together, to make sure no one gets hurt."

I raise my eyebrows.

"I guess someone fell over once and got injured while the group was praying."

He looks at me with mischief in his eyes.

"I know that wouldn't be an issue in your life group," he says. "You'd make all your life group members wear helmets."

I throw back my head and laugh deep and full, because he's not too far from the truth.

The first time I was well enough to go walking, after months and months in bed, I fought debilitating anxiety. The first time I drove on the freeway, after the worst of my illness, I battled panic attacks.  Talking to strangers suddenly made my heart race, and going to a new grocery store made my throat constrict.

It was strange to be so inhibited by fear. Me, the girl who used to run full throttle at hurdles and drive like a maniac, afraid to leave the house.

I didn't expect to have to battle such pervasive fear on my journey of healing. It has been so gloriously evident that God has used the loss of the last few years for gain, so that I don't have to fear loss anymore. Even the loss becomes grace, by God's sovereignty. But I guess my soul is still heaving hard from the blows of the last two years, and my knee-jerk reactions to life reveal the fear wrapped around my heart, like a protective bandage.

This bandage doesn't protect and heal though; it suffocates, like hardening plaster, squeezing the joy out of life.

So I've spent this year stripping away fear. I went walking once, twice, three times, until walking was no longer scary. I drove on the freeway, then I sped, then I weaved. I talked to strangers, and forced myself into the grocery store.

And the plaster bandage started cracking, loosening.

So that, if you were in my life group, I probably wouldn't make you wear a helmet during prayer. But if we were to go to the ocean together? I'd have to grit my teeth and race into the water, and swim and swim and swim, and watch fear dissolve.

There's still so much fear to strip away.

So I've been adventuring, once, twice, three times, until the fear of loss — the possibility of injuries, mishaps, and close calls — doesn't have the power to dictate my living. And fear's grip keeps loosening.

Last week the grand adventure was mountain biking. On a $5,000 bike (a demo). And booooy, let me tell you: I get it now. I get why people fork out thousands of dollars for toys, because I swear that bike has a brain.

I'm whipping around a corner a little too fast, but the bike keeps me upright. I'm flying over a hill and the bike lands smooth and steady. I'm cruising over bumps and the bike softens the impact of the landing.

It's so strange to feel in control, but to also feel some reliable outside force working in conjunction with my free will, saving me from my errant, fearful self.

So I pedal hard and breathe deep. And oh! it feels good to speed and sweat, and whip with the wind.

I pedal harder. Faster. I accelerate into turns, and every time I think I'm going to fall, the bike keeps me upright. I begin to trust it.

And then it hits me: that this feeling of not being as in control as I think I am — of my free will working together with an outside force — is the closest I've gotten to experiencing something that sort of resembles the way God's sovereignty interacts with our free will.

I'm grinning now as I fly around a blind corner, because this analogy is great — this feeling is great: my heart so alive.

But the corner turns out to be tighter than I thought, and I'm deep in thought about God's sovereignty, and in a split second I've careened off the trail, grazed a tree, and flown over the handlebars.

I land hard, and I can't breath, and the pain is surging, and the vomit rising, and I wonder if I punctured a lung?

And thank goodness I'm wearing a helmet — thank goodness.

My friend races over and I'm gasping ragged breaths, and aching, and it takes awhile before the nausea lessens. And then I'm up. I'm okay and I'm walking toward my bike.

And I'm smiling, and feeling oddly energized. Because the fall? It wasn't that bad. I did end up fracturing my rib, but the doctor says it's a minor injury. And I'm covered in bruises, but they make me feel like I did back when I was knocking over hurdles on a weekly basis. And I'm grinning as I write because it feels so good to be hurting from mountain biking rather than chronic illness, and I love that  the girl who panicked over driving on the freeway is chuckling about a cracked rib.

I love it.

And falling? It's nothing to be afraid of.

And God's sovereignty? It touches everything. We can't escape it. Even the falls don't fall outside the realm of his sovereignty.

Sometimes the falling is just what we need. God knows, sometimes it's the strength of impact that cracks the plastered fear and lets the heart inhale life.

Wild, glorious gain, that the Father is determined to help us live free and full.

© by scj


  1. "And falling? It's nothing to be afraid of." So true. It's never putting myself in a position to fall that I need to be wary of. Like you, Sarah, I'd rather "pedal hard and breathe deep."


    1. Tim,

      What glory that we can pedal hard and breathe deep with the confidence that our God turns the falls into grace!

      I'm thankful today that we needn't fear, because of Jesus.