A young boy nervously puts one leg over the bar of the bike, and anxiously sits down on the narrow, uncomfortable seat. He’s trembling and off-balance. There is fear plainly in his face, and a sensation of discomfort and a desire to return to his two feet is coming through strongly. His father looks over at him, beaming with a smile of assurance and trustworthiness. The father calmly says to his son, “Don’t worry, buddy! I will not let you fall. If you just trust me and let me help you, you will not fall. I promise.”

The boy begins to pedal but leans so heavily to one side and then the other that it’s obvious he’s a fish out of water. He’s tipping slightly, ever more closely to parallel to the ground, but the Strong Hand firmly but gently keeps him safe and sturdy. Slowly the child improves and has more confidence in the experience as he travels further and further, tipping less and less frequently, but the father always keeps his hand steady, ready at any moment to protect his son.

However, after some time, the boy begins to want to try riding without his father’s help. After all, “all the other kids are riding around on their own.” The neighborhood parents all warn their children to wear helmets, avoid the main roads, and to watch for cars, but several of the boys living near the father and son ride around free from all these pieces of advice and despite that, they still are fine, riding every day further and further from home. The child begins to desire the same kind of freedom that the other children experience.

It might feel comfortable to assume he’s scorning his father’s help, intentionally dismissing it, but the reality is actually that he isn’t considering his father at all anymore. He is only looking at that “freedom”, to the way the other children have it, and simply seeing himself like that, not considering the help good or bad but merely an extra piece not in the painting he sees in his mind’s eye. A block out of place that the parent set while playing together that quickly gets removed because it’s not the child’s vision (or vice versa).

He tells his father, “I’d like you to stop holding onto my seat now, please. The other kids tease me, and I just want to be like them, free and having fun. They ride fast, their hair isn’t all sweaty and disheveled from the helmet, and they ride down the main road all the time seeing cool things that I want to see! I thought those things were dangerous, but every day they ride around and nothing ever happens to them!”

The father’s heart mourns inside. The father has lived this life, experienced this firsthand, but what can he say? To force his way would be to create resentment, and likely it would only increase the desire all the more. He gently warns, “Son, I know that stuff looks fun, but remember that we gave you those guidelines to protect you. We’re not trying to control you, we just love you and want you to be safe. Won’t you let me continue helping you?”

The child considers thoughtfully. He’s truly not a disobedient boy for the sake of it. He’s not trying to be rebellious and scorn his father, he is just fixated on what he doesn’t have. It seems safe enough, and besides! he’s never fallen even one time on his bike the entire time he’s been riding. What’s the point of a helmet? Why avoid the main road? He’s crossed it half a thousand times in his life (forgetting that his father always walked him slowly and carefully across). “No, I think I’d like to go ride with the other kids from now on. Thanks for playing with me though! I’ll be back soon, don’t worry! I’ll come back to ride with you like I used to for sure.”

I truly believe all parents understand this analogy. The sensation of fear, worry, and recognizing this is a fundamental reality of being a parent itself. We can only guide and offer our hand of protection for as long as it’s accepted. If we force it, then the thing in which the action is trying to cultivate itself dies, for we aren’t actually trying to specifically target “safety”. Our children remaining safe and alive is simply a requirement for us to continue to watch them grow and for our bond and love between us to blossom and continue. But if we unyieldingly enforce our rules, then in their hearts the thing we are aiming at will be stifled at a minimum, if not entirely shrivel.

It’s painful and makes us yearn with all our hearts, praying and hoping from the depth of our guts, and with a power unknown to the core of our being until this moment, that they will return to us daily.

I am convinced that the reason these experiences not only exist but seem to exist for every parent and child, and every child that then becomes a parent with their children, is because they teach us, fundamentally, about God Himself. In Ephesians Paul states:

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named…
— Legacy Standard Bible, Eph 3:14–15.

Now, please bear with me. I know that Paul is not, in context, trying to highlight the fundamental nature of God as the archetypal “father” in the sense that all human experiences are necessarily stemming from God (that would be silly to argue anyway with sin, etc), but that doesn’t mean that the conclusion can’t be drawn from that. There is something extremely deep here. There is a physical truth foreshadowing a spiritual reality nested in this short but deep statement. Just like when Jesus says:

11 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! — Legacy Standard Bible, Mt 7:11.

When we act properly in the Biblical structure of the family as God has designed it, we get to see Him in it.

In this brief story, we see the Gospel itself: trust and opportunity.

There is the opportunity to ignore, forget, disdain, hate, simply reject the help of the Father, and there is the opportunity to remember, cherish, love, and accept the help of the Father. We can trust and remember the Hand of our Father, or we can ask that He let us be to chase the life we want without Him. The Greek word we translate as “faith”, pistis, is a trust determined by experience and confidence in something. It fits, very strongly, with this metaphorical story.

The beauty of seeing God as The Father, and truly what makes the Gospel He has provided so beautiful and humbling, is that He would never not offer to hold the seat of any man. In fact, He loved sinners so much even while they were enemies of Him in their darkness, that He put on the flesh of His own creation to be humbled and humiliated by it so that He could offer us His own hand to redeem then guide and protect us. There is no greater message or truth than this. He died for the sins of the whole world, and the Gospel is truly available to all men in the sense that matters.

But there lies the difficult truth in this that we all must accept: not all men want His hand to guide them. It’s true that everyone would say, “Who wouldn’t want the hand of their father watching over and protecting them?!” But in their heart of hearts what they mean is really to tack on the caveat, “…as long as He protects me only when things go wrongly while I do whatever I want and however I want to do it.”

And here is the unfortunate spot.

His hand is truly available to all in the sense of genuinely offered and genuinely can be taken. But He opposes the proud. You cannot ride around without a helmet, without His hand, without heeding His word, but then use Him as a parachute whenever you fail. That would be a tremendous abuse of His love and devotion. A Father who would bend over backwards in the hot sun, carrying his children’s water bottles for when they’re thirsty, lugging a backpack full of his child’s lunch so he can eat when he’s hungry, that will pull Him from dangerous traffic or from crashing into a tree is a beautiful gift, and this is what Jesus putting on flesh and suffering death is.

Imagine abusing the human father in this story, demanding that he chase you around on your bike, allowing you to behave as recklessly and without heeding him as you see fit, and when something goes wrong, not only do you expect him to be there immediately, to stop it, but scorn him if he can’t keep up or feels abused and mistreated.

Now, all metaphors fail slightly and this does in that The Father (God), can not fail at anything He sets His mind to, but it is very clear that He can feel wounded and feel scorned and unloved. While His forgiveness is in magnitude infinitely greater than any amount of mercy, patience, or tolerance we can even fathom, let alone achieve; and His humility is greater even in the most evil and wicked abuses conceivable compared to us taking a stray word from our own wives/husbands whom we love as if we’ve been spit on, shot, and put to the gallows by the act. He endures, we injure and offend. He condescends to us, we hurl condescension and scorn. He reaches out to the enemy offering full pardon and reconciliation, we hate those we love and harbor endless resentment.

Men can choose to take God’s hand because God has made it so. No man can force God through his (man’s) own will to extend His hand to us, but praise God that He has offered it of His own choosing!

Now, it’s important to be clear about what I mean here. Easy for people to get lost in theological baggage. So:

“No man can force God through his (man’s) own will…” means something very simple and straightforward and nothing more. Man can not force God to accept him (man) in any way that the man desires nor compel God to save him (man) through any means whatsoever. It is entirely, and completely, due to the offer of the Father through Christ that man has any ability whatsoever to be acceptable to God despite his (man’s) filthy sin. I believe the scriptures make it abundantly clear that man can truly choose to trust God (Joshua 24:14-15, Mark 1:15, Acts 3:19, 2 Peter 3:9, John 3:16, Isaiah 55, and on and on they could be provided), but also that it’s very clear that men should evaluate themselves constantly and tend the “soil” of their hearts because God will never accept the proud, the wicked, the idolaters, etc.

Jesus gave us a beautiful parable about the soils which correspond to the states of the hearts of men in Luke 8/Matthew 13, and how they will receive the Gospel. While of course this should terrify us in a sense, the only reason that should be so rather than being seen as a tremendous blessing since we are being shown a mirror, by which we can test our own hearts, is if you believe that the states of the soil (our hearts and souls) are fixed and out of our control. While there are instances where God has absolutely hardened men’s hearts in their sinful state in order to accomplish a purpose He has declared will come to pass, there is nothing explicitly applying this to all individuals unilaterally, and beyond that, to even have specific instances that explain these individual events as if they are worthy of unique and particular attention highlights that these are the exceptions to the rule. Otherwise, why would you even need to draw attention to it?

So let’s look to the lessons that God has flooded this earth with in His incredible commmon grace, to see the accessible, approachable nature of our Great, Good, and Humble God. Let’s stop trying to make everything so “woo-woo”, and let us like children riding our bikes, ask God to continue to guide our lives and never (literally never) remove His hand from our seat.

And let us encourage others not to believe in esoteric, confusing obfuscations of the incredible lessons that He has provided to all men in order to see His Goodness, but accept Him and His offer to all men in the way He spoke to the thief on the cross. Let’s preach a God who is genuinely offering His hand of salvation to all men if they would only look into themselves, realize their sinfulness, and cultivate their soil into receptive dirt for God to plant His incredible seed of redemption into, always relying on His help, perseverance, and promises to protect us.

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. — Legacy Standard Bible, Mt 7:7–8.

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