May 22 – Off With the Training Wheels

bike 02Thank God for young parents who have first steps and first bike rides still ahead. And thank God for faithful parents who allowed themselves to be used by God to teach faith and be a means of grace.

It started appearing on newsfeeds as one of those “what’s wrong with America” stories, Kid Struggling to Learn to Ride? Hire a Bike Coach. When eight-year old Max just couldn’t get bike riding down, his mom hired a $90 an hour coach to get the job done, and he got it done in one afternoon.

So it’s come to outsourcing one of the great parent-child passages, teaching your son or daughter to ride a bicycle. That’s what’s wrong with America. Who doesn’t remember the day they first rode a bike. Dad or mom running along behind and then beside and then left far back as you first experienced the exhilaration of racing down the street, wind in the face; a freedom like none you’d ever known. Of course there were those issues of stopping again and turning a corner, but they were mastered soon enough.

Really, hire someone else to teach your kid to ride a bike?  You might as well hire someone else to walk your daughter down the aisle or to have the first dance with your son at the wedding reception.

In defense of Max’s mom, two years of fear and frustration drove her to hire bike coach Howard Roth, and Max really is happy about being able to ride his bike.

And Howard the bike coach seems to know what he is doing, especially the part about getting rid of the training wheels.

Still, I’m glad I can look back and if I look far enough I can see all the way to that day when I was seven or eight years old and my dad ran behind me and then beside me and then I left him a block back on Primrose Drive as I raced down the street, wind in my face, experiencing a freedom I’d never known before. Dad may not have done everything right, but he taught me how to ride a bike.

I’m glad I can look back not quite so far and remember the days when Becky and I taught our three kids how to ride a bike.

The Apostle Paul was a great mentor to Timothy, his young friend and fellow laborer for the gospel.  Timothy was a wonderful protégé and learned so much about the faith from his older friend Paul. But when Paul reminds Timothy of how God had worked to bring the grace of faith into Timothy’s life, he doesn’t talk about how he coached Timothy, he talks about Timothy’s mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois (2 Timothy 1:3-7).

This week LPC is celebrating our fourth birth in a little more than a month. Welcome to the world, Austin, Olivia, Josie, and Wynn. Four down and two to go. Hang in there, Ally and Erin. In a week we will rejoice as ten confirmation students declare as their own faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Thank God for young parents who have first steps and first bike rides still ahead. And thank God for faithful parents who allowed themselves to be used by God to teach faith and be a means of grace.

I suppose that like Max’s mom, not every parent does teaching to ride a bike (or drive a car) well. Not every parent has a faith to share. But it is really good, it’s a privilege and a responsibility, to teach your child how to ride a bike. And it is a privilege and a responsibility to share faith and nurture belief in your child. Is there a greater joy for any parent than to be there when, wind in his face, a freedom like she’s never experience before, your son or daughter, maybe a little wobbly at first, begins to live the life of faith on his or her own?

Oh, and by the way, bike coach Howard is right: no training wheels. Tell them the stories of Jesus early. Make sure they are as familiar with the cross and the empty tomb as they are with the manger bed and the angel choir. Teach them the habit and the practice of prayer at bedtime and at the family table and anytime in between. Show them the life of the disciple by serving the poor and welcoming the stranger and defending the weak.

And, please, allow them to be a part of the church family, Lord’s Day by Lord’s Day, Sunday School class by Sunday School class. Those Sunday School teachers and older friends who call them by name aren’t hired coaches, they are mentors and they are meant to encourage and support you as you do what Godly parents are called to do – to bring up children in the discipline and nurture of the Lord.

Kid struggling to live by faith? Be a parent.