I don’t have a memory of this but it’s been told that when the training wheels were removed from my bicycle my older brother was helping me get started without them. He helped me get balanced and gave me a little push to get me going. I pedaled all the way down the driveway and ran straight into the telephone pole. They say I immediately jumped up, turned to him in anger, and blamed him for my crash…but that’s a whole other story called “Steve did it”.
Training wheels were designed to keep us upright and somewhat safe as we learned the mechanics of riding a bicycle. Once we got the basics of force producing motion, it was time to take the wheels off so we could learn balance during this precarious endeavor. This is what I was thinking about as I was running last week.
If I learned anything from last year’s training, it’s that pushing myself to do what I can do doesn’t equate to doing what I ought to do. There’s a proven training method for running where you focus on keeping your heart rate low as you build strength and endurance. This requires monitoring your heart rate more than your pace. Consistently training at the appropriate pace will eventually result in being able to run faster while maintaining a lower heart rate.
At my age, this optimum training heart rate is really low. A brisk walk is all it takes to hit this number. This annoys me. I don’t like running slowly. Not that I’m that fast anymore, it’s just that I know I can go faster than this training pace. I like watching the pace numbers. I like pushing my body to achieve. It feels like I’ve got the training wheels back on my bicycle when I already know how to ride (insert pouty emoji).
On my last run my heart rate was all over the place. I kept trying to adjust my pace to counteract any rise over what is optimum so I was checking my watch every few minutes. This does not make for a relaxing run. (Note: I realize that for some of you “relaxing run” is an oxymoron, but hang with me, that’s not the main point.) I have a tendency to be very rigid in my expectations. My efforts to tightly control my heart rate numbers was a stressor in itself and just thinking about it too much was raising my heart rate! I had to give myself a range of numbers rather than an exact one and then make myself stop checking my watch so frequently. So then I let my mind wander and I fell into a pace that was comfortable. I was really enjoying settling into this pace only to find that it had taken me out of the range that was acceptable and I had to slow it down again. I feared at this point the young couple who were just taking a leisurely walk were going to lap me at any moment. This is killing my pride.
When I was a kid I didn’t pay that much attention to the training wheels. I knew they were there to keep me from immediately falling over once I picked my feet up. I didn’t wonder how they were going to work. I didn’t care that they didn’t touch the ground at the same time. I didn’t notice how often one side or the other was carrying the load. I just trusted they would keep me from falling, at least most of the time. However, once removed, I was acutely aware of their absence, even before getting on the seat. Fear of falling was a real thing, especially when your driveway was paved with oyster shells. I hadn’t trusted they had done their job.
What I hadn’t realized was that a good bit of the time I was riding with the training wheels, they weren’t actually doing anything. I was balancing on my on, which was the goal. In my inaugural ride sans training wheels, balance wasn’t the problem. Focus was. I was excited to be moving forward while remaining upright but lost sight of where I was going.
What feels like a season with training wheels has me focusing on different things than before while not forgetting the goal. Like my running, life has slowed down and God wants me move out of what is “comfortable” and focus on the purpose He has for slowing me down: He wants me stronger – body, soul, & spirit – able to fulfill His purposes. There’s a new life balance to be developed and I don’t want to miss it because I mindlessly fall back into a pace that is familiar and comfortable, pushing myself to do things because I can, not because I ought.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 The Message Bible
Isn’t that what we all desire – to live freely and lightly?? Life feels precarious right now. It’s imperative we find our balance, our strength. Let’s embrace the changes that may feel like the training wheels are back on. Let’s let go of being afraid of falling. Let’s focus on the things that He is using and doing in our lives to make us stronger. Let’s lean into and roll with these unforced rhythms of His grace and see where He takes us. We can trust Him that He will do what He says He will do: help us.
“Training wheels” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com