What We Can Learn About Faith From Empty Bike Racks and Deep Wells
Jul. 28, 2020
“Where are all the Bikes?!"
"They are ALL gone!”
I am confident I’m not the only one to say this after walking into a Walmart or sporting goods store. Too many disappointed young boys and girls and desperate moms join me in looking for ways to get their kids out of the house. I stood there in awe for a solid minute before moving on. I couldn’t believe it. There wasn't a Schwinn, Huffy, or training wheel insight. COVID-19 successfully turned the common two-wheeled machines into mythical contraptions and unicorns.
I don’t think anyone thought twice about whether they had a bike or not when the virus first started throwing the world into a spiral of lockdown and quarantine. No one took inventory of the family’s fleet of bikes and trikes and, after an account of each bike, said, “We are ready." Who would have thought, a shortage of bikes? Those who weren’t prepared and didn’t have a bike before the pandemic were forced to the classifieds of Facebook marketplace, Offer UP, and Craigslist. There are no holds here. Cash is king, and you better be available yesterday to go pick it up because the market is crazy HOT. A Huffy that's been stored behind the trash cans for ten years, equipped with coaster brakes, a flat front tire and a seat that some squirrels decided was a buffet sold for $70 bucks; $25 above original retail.
COVID-19 has hit us hard, people. Empty bike shelves symbolize a society where children have worn out their welcome indoors. It suggests the temperament of mothers and fathers across America are at their limit.
This crisis has brought its own flavor. It has taught us all something new by its uniqueness. Like the empty bike racks at the stores, what did you realize was gone? You had that moment of, “What in the world….?” “It’s gone…” or “Where is …?” I’d say it was about week 3-4 when I and most of the people I am close to, started to realize how we were not prepared or were lacking something. I lacked faith, stamina, leadership, courage, patience, and gentleness. I cannot tell you how many moments I stood there, asking myself, “where is your FAITH?!” I was reaching for more courage and realizing that my stores were empty. I would say something and then realize I was not confident in my statement, “Everything is going to be okay…” Is it…? “God is good and in control, trust him…” Thirty million people have lost their jobs… This is a terrible plan… The attributes I thought I possessed ended up not being around when I need them most.
If I believe and value these things, why am I not seeing more evidence of them in my life?
Here is why I chose to write about empty bike shelves: At some point, you or your student(s) or someone you love is going to walk up to the storage shelve of their faith when they need it most, and it could all be GONE. They could need some courage or hope, and everywhere they look could be sold out. What do we do when then bike racks are empty, and we need a bike? What do we do when we need faith, hope, courage, and we can’t find it?
First, It is vital to stay uncomfortable spiritually.
You know, pre-pandemic, I’d bet I’d have a pretty good argument that most of us were living extremely comfortable spiritually. We claimed to have faith. We valued it. We lived it. We built our lives on it. But when something came along that tested my faith or put it under pressure, I stood there asking where it was. The importance of having a deep well in a dry season helps us understand my point.
I hit the bottom of my well in several areas of my life. I had no more to draw out. Have you been there? You throw your bucket into the well of courage, energy, faith, hope, kindness, gentleness, patience, self-control. And after you haul the bucket up, it's empty? The things we go through in life that are difficult help us dig our wells deep. There is a leadership principle that says you can’t grow without pain (hence the term, growing pains). Conflict handled well leads to growth. It teaches us how to dig our well just a little deeper so that we have that much more to draw out next time.
People want to be comfortable. Why would we want to be uncomfortable? We've built our culture around our comfort. But our faith, when lived out properly, puts us in uncomfortable states. When I think of the disciples following Jesus around, I'm tempted to go to the comfort of the flannel graph my Sunday school teacher Mrs. Harris used. They always looked so happy and cozy, and those animals were soft and happy too! But when you open up your Bible and read the Words of the Living God, the stories of the disciples following Jesus are far from comfortable. They are intense and dramatic as well as beautiful and wonderful.
As the disciples followed Jesus around, they quickly learn the root of discipleship is discipline. Their earthly desires, understanding, and tendencies rubbed roughly against the divine teachings and ways of the Messiah. They went through an immense amount of trials during their time with Jesus and after he left. Everything was challenging: the way they thought, lived, and believed. They had to learn to discipline their desire for the comfort of easy, logical, and familiar. There are stories of people who asked to follow Jesus, and his response is intense.
Here's what we read in Luke 9:57-61:
“As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Wow… I’ll take the flannel graph back, please! And sadly, most of the time, the flannel graph is enough for me to feel like I am building my life upon the Rock, the Word of God. Something firm and secure. The only issue is that when a microscopic virus comes kicking the door down overnight and turns the world upside down, the backbone of the faith I have is founded in a flannel graph. Flimsy and weak, but hey, at least it’s cute and comfortable. Choosing to stay comfortable cripples our faith. It is one of the enemy’s greatest tactics in an attempt to keep the Kingdom of God from being pushed forward. (Spoiler alert... God wins.) But will we help other people be a part of the kingdom by strengthening our faith and living out the Gospel even when it is uncomfortable?
How can we be intentional about being uncomfortable spiritually to strengthen our faith’s backbone and dig our wells deeper?
Simply put, I believe we need to look at our time. Time is one if not the most valuable things we have as people. We don’t get it back. We can’t buy more. We can’t control if it is taken away. We only get to decide what we use the time we have, day to day and moment to moment.
Second, Spend time intentionally reflecting the character of God in what you say, do, and think.
Do you spend more time staying comfortable in your faith or stepping out and challenging your faith, risking discomfort? I’m not suggesting the only answer is selling all we have, have no home, not talking to our families, and moving to a far-off place to share the Gospel. I’m suggesting that we contemplate the faith legacy we are building by what we spend our time on. As we learn to live in pursuit of deepening our faith over time, our faith increases. It fills every crack and crevice in our lives. No matter where you look, dig or creep, you find evidence of faith, belief, and values based on God's character, growing and supporting our life. The well is deep.
When a time of crisis hits, and everyone else’s well runs dry, the bike racks are empty, and half the population has resorted to single ply, you have the well-spring of life from the Father that can overflow into other people’s lives.
Your well won’t run dry if you spend more time digging deeper. We don’t just dig our wells deep for ourselves; we do it for others as well. When our wells are deep, it adds depth to the wells of those we influence. Let’s dig deep wells of faith. Let’s make sure our bikes are ready, so when the racks are empty, we are prepared to ride.
Compass CV Junior High Pastor