Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Sweet Sixteen and a New Set of Wheels

I remember it like it was yesterday...

Ben was five years old, and it was time. He was excited and a little afraid when Daddy removed the training wheels. Sometimes we had to push Ben toward progress because he hated the thought of pain. The idea of scraping his shins and falling off his bike was not very appealing to him, but the idea of riding like the big boys thrilled him. He thought he would just jump on his bike and fly like the wind. He was greatly disappointed when he got on it and struggled to keep it upright.

We had the perfect place for him to practice riding his bicycle. Our street was pretty close to level and was rarely traveled by any vehicle but ours. You could see from quite a distance if anything was coming, and anything that traveled on that road had to go pretty slow. It was an ideal setup for learning to ride.

We helped Ben some, but finally realized he was just one of those kids that do better if you just leave him alone to figure it out. So I went inside and did what every good mom does. I grabbed the video camera.

Here he was. My little baby. He would pedal a couple of times and then lose his balance. His feet would catch him before he fell. Then came the pouting. Pedal for two seconds... stop and pout for two minutes. Pedal for two more seconds... and stop and pout for two more minutes. But he never stopped. Then he would pedal for four seconds... then ten... and before we knew it, he was flying up and down our quiet, safe little street. The look on his face was pure joy and satisfaction in his accomplishment. But then it hit me... my baby was growing up.

I wondered how I would handle it when he turned sixteen and got his license. It was one thing to have my baby boy riding around our safe, deserted little ghost town of a street. It was a whole different feeling thinking about turning him lose in the world. He wouldn't be on one safe, rarely-used back road. He would be on highways and interstates and surrounded by other cars.

Then our family goes to the mission field in a third world country. Getting a car is not an option. Getting his license? No way.

Before his sweet sixteenth birthday arrived, his friends in the States were talking about how they had their licenses and cars. He rejoiced with them, but began feeling the sting of the sacrifice of living here. He would not be getting his license, or any of the freedoms that come with it.

But instead of a car... we decided to get him something much scarier. We bought him a bicycle.

(Oh, to have him surrounded by metal in a car... safe and protected!) No purchase we have ever made has impacted my prayer life the way that bicycle has.

You see, he isn't riding on that safe, quiet back road in North Carolina. He is riding on the streets and hills of a city of five million people. And not just any city. A city well known for being some of the most dangerous, chaotic, and crazy roads in the world.

In the States, if someone says, "This guy pulled out in front of me today," we respond, "Oh, wow! I am glad you're ok!" Here? If someone says, "This guy pulled out in front of me today," we respond, "Just one? Wow! Praise the Lord!" Lanes? Ha! Those lines on the road are for decoration. And the motto on the road here is, "Every man does that which is right in his own eyes." If a vehicle can thread through a tiny spot at normal speed and only clap mirrors, they will try. Open unmarked manholes... every barnyard animal imaginable wandering freely in the roads... and no one (pedestrian or motorcycle or vehicle) looks before coming out in your way. It's your responsibility to honk the horn to let them know you are there... only bicycles don't have horns.

Someone once tried to comfort me by reminding me they drive much slower here than in the States. I didn't find the thought of a taxi running slowly over my baby very comforting.

I follow on scooter behind him on the way to language school each day and I find my stomach in knots... and I pray, "Lord, don't let that bus pull out in front... oh wait... Lord, that taxi is driving too close and... oh, Father... that motorcycle..."

One day, I was following him and praying. Then it finally hit me. I prayed the prayer I should have prayed from the beginning.

"Lord, protect him because I can't."

And then it all became very clear... this is the struggle: I still saw that little boy who pedaled and pouted and pedaled and pouted. But the truth of the matter is, he isn't the little chick gathering under the hen's wings for safety anymore. And when he goes to the States next year for college,

"Lord, please protect him, because I can't."

And when some little girl is trying to steal his heart... and when he goes into the military... and when he is faced with temptation or big life decisions... 

"Lord, protect him, because I can't."

It was easy when he was little and I could keep him contained in a crib or playpen. It was easy when there were fences and limits and control seemed to be in my grasp. But somehow with the purchase of two wheels, I realized the deception. I have never been his real source of protection. And I had over the years allowed myself to think that I was his safety.

Proverbs 21:31 "The horse is prepared against the day of battle:
but safety is of the LORD."

Here I am, riding my scooter behind him, and God reveals something in my heart... the ugly truth of the matter. I cannot protect him, and, yet, for so long I went around thinking I could.

Moms, you can prepare the crib... you can prepare the stroller and the bicycle and the yard. You can prepare the house and cover all the electrical plugs with guards and lock all the cabinet doors. You can prepare the schedule, the plan, the hopes, the dreams. You can pick out the highest safety-rated car and have rules galore. And you should do all these things. You should prepare.

But never fall into the delusion that you are your child's safety. This shouldn't make you tremble with fear. This should drive you to your knees. And it has driven me to mine like never before, because I realize God can go where I cannot. God can do what I cannot. He can see what I cannot see.

Yes, prepare. But always realize... and rejoice in the fact... that safety is of the LORD.

by Charity, Southern Asia

*Mountain biking photos used by permission. (Thanks, Rob, for letting me use these pics... and thanks for helping Ben learn how to safely enjoy the sport of mountain biking.)


Lou Ann Keiser said...

Yes, yes, YES! As a mother of two children that have been out of the nest for 14 and 11 years, I learned this long ago. You let God lead them and let them spread their wings and grow. It's so amazing to watch our children become adults, so satisfying. Now, our kids are married and have children of their own, and we are so very thankful that we let them go and let them grow. LOVED your post!

Heather ♥ {Missionary Mama} said...

Charity~ Thanks so much for sharing this...As a missionary mama to 3 quickly-growing-up little people, I needed this reminder. I am learning that many of the "growing pains" in life are really the mom's. It is hard! Anyway, very well said. I really enjoy your posts, sweet spirit, and way of writing. Thanks for sharing and keeping it real! <3 Love from Argentina!