‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
- Acts 17:28
You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.
- 2 Peter 3:11b-13
“When I was seven years old, my father bought me my first bicycle. I had never ridden one. Patiently, my family and friends tried to teach me the art of cycling. I soon found out there was one thing I must do if I was to stay on the bicycle – keep moving forward. If I ceased to go forward, I would fall and hurt myself. So it is in the Christian life. We can never live this life on the highest plane unless we are continually growing and moving forward. You should be closer to God today, in heart, soul, and body, than at any other time so far in your life.”
- Billy Graham, Day by Day with Billy Graham (May 29)
First, the photo is of the Earthquake Memorial in Tangshan, P. R. China. There are cyclists peddling along the edge of the street. There seems to be cyclists on every street in China, even the busy ones. As for the earthquake, it was a magnitude 7.6 – 7.8 earthquake (sources differ) in 1976. Officially, over 242,000 people were killed, but some sources report over three times that many deaths. Foreshadows of the coronavirus reporting? Each memorial had a different number of deaths. I was in Tangshan on two occasions and I went to Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico with a third group from Tangshan. The company that I worked for built three different steel processing lines in Tangshan.
Billy Graham got me to thinking. My brother and sister put me on a bicycle for the first time and shoved me down the hill. I rode it straight into a freshly tilled garden. When the wheels bogged down in the soft dirt, the bicycle stopped, but I did not. Since I landed in soft dirt, I was not hurt. On the next try, they pointed the bicycle further toward the highway, away from the garden. We lived on a terraced hilltop. The road, well above the bottom of the hill, was below our dirt road leading to where turkeys used to live, free-range style, but then there was a higher terrace where the garden was, and then a much higher terrace where the house was. As I rode the bike down the first terrace, I veered more toward the road. I wasn’t steering as much as I was trying to stay upright. I then went down to the farm level, headed for the road. I could hear my brother running behind me, screaming “Turn right!” That made sense. That would be away from the road with cars and trucks, but I turned right as my brother commanded, right into an electrified fence. That was it for my first try. By that point, I was “toast.”
My next attempt was in town after we had lost the farm home, a month or so later. I was doing well until a tree, smaller in diameter than the tires on the bike, jumped in front of the bike. How a tree could move that fast, I will never know. I hit it squarely, no glancing blow. The tree, after jumping in front of me, failed to move further. It was like slow motion. I stopped, stayed balanced for a couple of seconds, and then slowly I fell to one side. My sister was watching. She laughed and said, “Only you could hit the only tree in the backyard.”
But like Billy Graham, at about the same age, I got the idea of how to ride a bike by moving forward.
But, before I get to Billy Graham’s point, about 6-7 years later, I was living in Tupelo, MS and I was working on my Cycling merit badge for boy scouts. I was exploring the extended neighborhood where we lived and I rode along an uncharted street, at least one I had never been on in a bike or a car. What I learned was that the street suddenly went down an extremely steep slope, ending at a “T” intersection, just as the road leveled, no way to stop on a bicycle. What was worse, approaching about 35mph according to my speedometer, I went flying past the stop sign needing to turn left or right, the street was rarely travelled, and loose gravel had piled up atop the asphalt. I hit the loose gravel; my front wheel jerked sideways and folded in half. I flew over the handlebars, slid along the asphalt pavement, and crashed into a curb, my bike still in the loose gravel. I had left a good portion of the skin on one arm and the same shoulder on the asphalt as I slid. I had no broken bones, and I was still conscious. A neighbor saw what had happened and ran into the street. She directed me to a garden hose and washed my wounds, including the removal of a couple of broken wheel spokes that had skewered my arm. She called another neighbor who had a pick-up truck. He took me home, carrying the bike in the back. Being a boy scout, I bandaged myself, and once I had bought a new front wheel, I was back on the bike, taking a fifty mile bicycle ride from Tupelo to Bynum Mounds near Houston, MS along the Natchez Trace Parkway. If my trek partner is reading this, we did it, my friend, just the two of us.
In growing as a Christian, Billy Graham is correct in that we need to move forward, just like in bike riding.
If we stay still, we can easily fall. We might not literally fall, but we become an easy target for Satan, who preys upon the weak. To become strong, we must spend time with other Christians; we must pray and study the Bible. We must learn to trust Jesus in every situation.
And maybe, along with learning more about Jesus, and learning how to discern God’s will, we might gain a little wisdom and avoid those steep slopes that end in a sharp turn with loose gravel and no way of stopping.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.