I threw one long, lanky leg over the dirt-bike seat, and sat down, defiantly. Helpless, my then-boyfriend stormed away, refusing to stick around and watch me hurt myself. He tried to forbid me to ride the thing because he didn’t think I would be able to handle it. He failed to remember who I was. I was a country girl, rough and tumble as they come. I could control a 1500-pound animal at full speed with tiny leather straps, certainly this little dirt bike was a piece of cake.
“Gas is up here, break is down there.”
“I got it.”
My friends were nervous but knew better than to attempt to stop a determined Sarah from anything. I took off into the pasture and was doing just fine, until I wanted to slow down. I reached for what I had thought was the break, quickly realizing, I had mixed up the instructions. I had reached for the handle, which is where the gas was located, accelerating the bike. I panicked, and for whatever crazy-brained reason, hit the gas a second time. This made the bike pop a wheelie, which I was not prepared for. I let go of the gas and the front wheel dropped back down to the ground. I turned the bike back towards my friends, to see their eyes wide with worry. Still panicked, and ready for the ride to be over, I accelerated the bike again, only to pop a second wheelie. This time, I rode that wheelie for what felt like an eternity, burning my leg on the exhaust. My friends had started yelling at me to hit the break and for the life of me, I still couldn’t remember where it was. Finally, one of them realized that my brain was frozen in fear and yelled, “Pedal! Break is by the pedal!” The bike came to a halt and my friends grabbed trembling, teenage me, to safety.
I’d love to say that I’ve grown out of that rebellious spirit, the kind that bucks at law-filled phrases. The kind that wants to prove just how strong and capable I am. Perhaps I’ve gained more wisdom over the years, and it will be a cold day in Hades before I ever attempt to ride another dirt bike. But I still like to lie to myself, telling myself and others, “I got it” when I don’t. There have been times that I’ve fooled myself into thinking I am in complete control. That is, until I find myself crumpled on the ground in front of a brick wall called, “life”, with a bruised ego and a burned-up leg.
I think that’s true of most of us. We all have times where we fool ourselves into thinking we are capable on our own, that we don’t need to heed the warnings of people who love us and know us well. Those who from the outside, have a better picture of the situation because they aren’t blinded by our specific wounds. We smugly fire back, “I got it,” excited to prove ourselves to ourselves and the watching world, having no idea the hair-brained danger that awaits us in moments of panic, the second we see what little control we have.
As an adult, I have had many metaphorical dirt-bike situations. My friends now, being the wise, gospel-believing people they are, know not to hand me strong law-phrases. They know that they are not my mother and treating me that way would only keep me from turning back towards them when I realize I am in over my head. Don’t get me wrong, they certainly do not coddle me. They can, and do, say the hard things because they know me. They’ve spent countless hours listening to me. They’ve earned the right to speak into my life and so they aren’t the least bit timid to give me loving warnings. They know my deepest wounds and have learned to read my various emotional states. When they see me thinking about climbing on those dirt bikes, they don’t hammer me with judgment or leave. They stay by my side, no matter how many wheelies I pop out of blindness, arrogance, fear, or emotional numbness.
“I got it.”
They smile. They nod. They pray. They brace themselves for the wild ride.
But here’s why a community like this is key. It’s not so much about having people who can keep you from climbing onto the dirt bike, because no one, not even you can keep you from that, given a weak enough moment. What’s more important is surrounding yourself with those who, the second they see things going horribly wrong, come rushing to your side, never offering judgment, nor a single “I told you so,” but words of love. People who will deliver a gospel word; that while we make bad decisions out of pain, they never left, and more importantly -- Christ never left. These friends demonstrate to us a love that will never let go, even in the wake of our own blind stubbornness. These friends show up on the crash scene and patiently, gently, help dress our newest wounds. They let us lean on them while we limp away from that dirt bike, vowing to never touch it again. They breathe a sigh of relief, that we made it out in one piece.
When we are loved this way, we find ourselves part of a community that allows us the trust and freedom necessary to share our deepest of truths. The things we are too afraid to admit to ourselves. It’s the kind of love that makes you very humble and crazy honest.
“I never had it.”
Read more from Sarah Taras here