I’ve been back in Indiana for almost a month, and in so many ways, I feel at home again. Its a nice feeling. I love the quiet nights and wide open cornfields and country roads. I love riding bicycles and motorcycles and working at the bike shop. I love hanging out with friends and family and going to church and college group. All that being said, I’ve also had some cool learning experiences while being back.
Earlier this week, one of my co-workers and I went mountain biking after work. Al’s single objective for the evening was to get me over some of the larger log rolls, and teach me to jump my bike. Though I’ve been mountain biking for several years, and tend to ride with the fast-paced group, I aways skip the larger obstacles. But Al was convinced I could successfully ride them….without crashing. As we approached the first log roll, a pile of logs no more than three feet high, I freaked out on the inside. I’ve wrecked before. I know what it feels to go flying over my handlebars and land in a heap in the dirt. There was no way I could ever get my front tire up and over that pile of logs–much less the rest of my bike. I tried to calm the minions wreaking havoc in my chest as I watched Al go sailing smoothly over the log roll–effortlessly. Now it was my turn. I got on my bike and started pedaling towards the obstacle–and started second-guessing myself. When I did, I lost momentum, and rolled up the logs only to come to a precarious halt at the top of the pile–saved from crashing only by Al’s quick reflexes in holding me up.
I tend to do that a lot. Second-guessing, that is.
Just tonight, at college group, we were discussing our tendencies as individuals to be either cautious or risk-takers. I tend to be more of a risk-taker. I ride motorcycles. I ride bicycles down somewhat busy streets. I live overseas. I ride horses. I rock climb.
But when it comes to relationships, responsibility, and decisions, I second guess that risk-taking instinct. Constantly.
What if it doesn’t work out? What if I fail? What if that isn’t God’s will for me? What if that’s just the easy way out? What if people criticize me? What if I don’t make a difference?
On and on it goes.
And over and over, I ride up to the log roll only to come to a precarious halt at the top–frozen by fear of the “what if.” And on Monday night, when Al stood there on that log roll and caught me before I fell, I realized how paralyzing that fear actually was. Al was probably the only person who could have coached me over those log rolls. With anyone else, I would have made up lame excuses to avoid trying, if only to avoid letting them see just how scared I really was. But for some reason, I let my guard down and allowed Al to see my fear in all of its paralyzing reality. I was nearly hyperventilating from my effort to squash down the fear enough for a full-fledged attempt at the log roll. But he kept on encouraging me to commit. To give it my all, with no option of retreat.
And when I gritted my teeth and refused to second-guess myself, when I went all-in, with no “outs,” I made it over the log roll with ease. From there, we moved on to other log rolls. Some, I made it over. Some, I didn’t.
But I faced my fear.
And more importantly, I saw the consequences of second-guessing and fear.
Looking ahead, I have a number of important decisions to make. As I do so, I have to remember that God, in His grace and sovereignty, has given me a few guidelines to follow–but has given me the freedom to choose within those guidelines. As Solomon in Ecclesiastes put it (as outlined by Tommy Nelson): Do Right. Be Poised. Be Bold. Enjoy Life. Another author, Kevin DeYoung, also noted when considering the will of God:
“The decision to be in God’s will is not the choice between Memphis or Fargo or engineering or art; it’s the daily decision we face to seek God’s kingdom or ours, submit to His lordship or not, live according to His rules or our own. The question God cares about most is not ‘Where should I live?’ but ‘Do I love the Lord with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind, and do I love my neighbor as myself?’ (Luke 10:27) It’s that second question that gets to the heart of God’s will for your life” (DeYoung 2009).
I don’t have to second-guess. I don’t have to live in fear of the what-if.
Simply put, so long as I am loving God and loving people, then, well…”Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”
And if life is anything like mountain biking, then such an approach will typically end with positive results.