When I was 7, I got my first real bike. My grandfather found a set of old training wheels in the basement. They’d belonged to my mother, and they were like nothing I’d ever seen before.
All the other kids I knew had pretty flimsy training wheels. They might slow you down if you were tipping over, but they didn’t really seem safe. How could those little plastic circles protect you from the horrors of the street?
My training wheels, on the other hand, were solid. They weighed as much as my little brother. They were huge – almost as big as a tricycle wheel. In fact, they were almost a vehicle in and of themselves – They had shelves so that another kid could stand on them and ride while I pedaled.
I was proud of them. They looked weird to the other kids who were used to the cheap modern wheels, but my training wheels were sturdy. They were a relic of the early 1950’s, but things had been better made back then.
It was a while before I noticed the problems. My wheels had no turning radius. While other kids were doing donuts in the cul-de-sac, I had to make large, lazy circles. They were stable- I didn’t fall down as much as the other kids, but when I did fall… well, the wheels were so big and sharp and heavy that they actually hurt me worse than the pavement did.
Worst of all, I wasn’t learning to ride on my own. For the other kids, training wheels were a stage – they breezed through them on the way to speed and freedom. Mine seemed to weigh me down. I loved them anyway. They were mine. They were strong. They kept me safe.
Everyone around me tried to get me to give them up. They were all wrong. My parents, siblings and friends had no idea how important those training wheels were. I’d fall even more often without them! I’d get hurt! I needed them!
Finally, I got sick of the nagging. I let my dad take them off. But I made him promise that I could have them back in a few days.
I rode off, and promptly fell. I’d never learned to balance- my training wheels had taken over that critical function. Without them, I finally had to start learning. A few days and several scrapes later, I could finally keep up with the other kids. I could do donuts. I could ride fast and free down the big hill and know what it was like to fly.
I hadn’t realized how much the training wheels were weighing me down. Once I experienced life without them, I never looked back.
My parents asked me if I wanted to save them for my kids. I assume they were joking—in retrospect, the wheels were positively penitential.
In our spiritual life, we all have weights like that. God may be calling us to get rid of them, but we’re afraid to let go. After all, they’re our weights. We know them. We love them even though they hurt us. What if God’s weights aren’t as good?
The thing is, God’s not offering us another weight in exchange – he’s offering us freedom and the chance to soar on the wind. If we take a deep breath and have the courage to follow him, we’ll soon see our old weights for what they really were – shackles.