Do you remember learning to ride a bike? Think back to the mix of excitement and apprehension, learning something new and becoming more independent. Consider the person who helped you learn. Perhaps it was a parent, relative or friend. Close your eyes and imagine the time and place, the sights and sounds as the adrenaline increased and you were encouraged to keep your eyes up and the wheel straight and your feet pumping the pedals. Hopefully, you were given some guidance on controlling your speed and how to stop without having to lay the bicycle down. It took a few tries, but soon, you were off and rolling up the street or around the parking lot.
Teaching our children to ride a bike is a right of passage, and a wonderful metaphor for parenting. We provided all the safety gear; a helmet, knee and elbow pads, training wheels, wide open spaces, instruction and encouragement. It’s a wonder they could even move, much less ride the bike. Finally, that day came and the training wheels came off. One of our boys couldn’t wait and took them off himself. I laced up my shoes, stretched my hamstrings and prepared to sprint back and forth across the parking lot near our home. Then came the critical point in the process, letting go of the seat. Trusting they had listened and learned, that we had pointed them in the right direction, and they had the ability to navigate their surroundings. We would watch, wait and then step in to pick them up, guide and encourage them and let go of the seat again.
A few years ago, our son made a significant life decision. He sought our input and the counsel of others and prayed fervently. While we disagreed with the choice and the sacrifice he was making, we supported his decision. I was conflicted over the circumstances and called my father to talk it through. He listened, gave some instruction and encouragement. Then he asked me a question. “Do you remember teaching him to ride a bike?” Of course I remember. “What did you have to do”, he asked. I walked through the process described above; at last getting the defining moment…… letting go of the seat. Hind sight brings clarity. Letting go was the right decision for our son. He is a better person today because of the choice he made and the impact it had on others.
As parents, whether we are teaching our children to ride a bike, play an instrument or sport, or drive a car, there comes a point when we have to let go. Letting go takes courage and faith, trusting in the guidance given and in God for his provision and protection. The process is repeated over and over as our children grow up. When our youngest went off to college. Letting go was tough, but we knew he was ready. He had the opportunity to study abroad and was been challenged to live his experience through Proverbs 19:21 – “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (NIV). What a wonderful promise for mothers and fathers as we trust God each time we let go of the seat.