“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” – Matthew 6:33
“The only thing that matters is faith expressing itself in love.” – Galatians 5:6
“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love, does not know God, for God is love….No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and love is perfected in us.” – 1 John 4:7-8, 12
For many of us, the analogy of a spiritual journey is resonant.
Many journeys, have a topography to consider. Just go with me for a moment. Let’s say that, the journey has roads, paths, and trails, and a mountain bike is the best mode of transport.
As many of you may have experienced; in your childhood, you probably had a bicycle with training wheels. These allowed you to learn to create forward momentum by pedalling, to learn to turn holding the handlebars, braking to stop. The notion was that this gave the semblance of cycling, to learn the “basics”, and leaving mastering balance, an essential part of riding a two wheeled vehicle, last. Allowing the training wheels to bear the brunt of the wobbles.
Now as a parent, it is a jubilant rite of passage, when you take the training wheels off your child’s bike and you go through the process of helping your child ride without them. Pushing them, running alongside, yelling instructions, nudging them back into balance. I have had the privilege of doing this three times.
Lately, it is more likely to see tiny toddlers “riding” on balance bikes, often little wooden bikes, with no pedals, no brakes, and no training wheels. The theory here is that the child will be using their feet for momentum, but seated on the bike, experience moments of equilibrium and balance, immediately experiencing what it is like to ride a bicycle. Soon enough, after they have experienced the sensation, and acquire the skill to activate the sense of balance that they innately have, applied to this particular endeavour, their transition into riding a bicycle with pedals and brakes is extraordinarily smooth.
Almost no parent involved. Beyond the supply of the bicycles.
I know this may be concerning to parents-to-be that they will miss out on this iconic parenting moment, but you’ll manage. You’ll still be there, “teaching” them how to ride a bike, and beaming when they ride away, yelling “I did it!”, sharing smiles.
So you get the point right? Practicing balance appears to actually be the thing to learn first.
On our spiritual journey, there is often the notion that you must learn the beliefs, knowledge, history, structure, before you “get started”. That cerebral, information and intellectual understanding after a spiritual experience or conversion, creates the foundation for the journey. Faith and belief as the bicycle. Creeds and statements of faith as your training wheels, so you don’t lose balance. The Bible as the operating manual, about the parts of the bicycle, repair and maintenance.
But what if faith and belief is not the bicycle. What if God’s love is the bicycle. And what if learning to love, practicing love, according to the life of Jesus, God incarnated as man, should be our modus operandi at all times, especially at the beginning of our faith journey. Don’t get me wrong, faith, beliefs grounded in the Bible are integrally part of our spiritual journey. But what if training wheels aren’t actually that helpful starting out, because we end up focusing our attention on learning lots of other things, spiritual peddling, learning how to start, stop, turn, dos, don’ts. Learning the mechanics, before practicing the essential.
Perhaps learning the practice of how to receive God’s love, processing it, being it, and giving it to others is faith in action indeed. The “balance” of riding the bicycle of the spiritual journey. Since we already know how to walk ie. live, we can easily start practicing love, learning to ride our “balance” bikes. Perhaps if we master love, and realise that the bicycle itself is love, we won’t need to do any of the turning, pedalling, braking. Maybe love itself is the momentum, and all we need to do is rest in it, trust in it. Maybe love will takes us where we need to go.
Love: the bicycle, the balance, the journey and the destination. Connecting to God, and others along the way. In love.
Have fun riding.