Do you ever stop to reflect after a difficult day, a disappointing week, or a discouraging season, and wonder “Why is life so difficult sometimes?” If so, I’d like you to consider rephrasing your question this way: “Why can’t I ride this bike?”
This August, I served as the camp speaker at Young Life’s Saranac Village, and part of what I wanted to do was to get kids and their leaders to talk honestly about the hurts, disappointments and failures that we all experience in life.
To start to get at this idea, I used a reverse-steering bike as an illustration. A reverse-steering bike turns the front wheel the opposite direction that the handlebars are turned, using a gear mechanism that is added at the stem of the handlebars. The result of the modification is a bike that is nearly impossible to ride. Every instinct that you would have regarding turning and balancing the bike is exactly wrong.
Early in the week, I would bring out the bike during free time for kids to try. I would just have it there at the basketball courts, and before long, a crowd would gather. Almost every kid who saw it wanted to try it, and most thought they would be able to ride it. Some kids came with theories about how they would make it work–some kids tried crossing their grip, some tried closing their eyes, and some thought that all they needed was enough speed. Every kid discovered that it was a lot more difficult than they thought at first, and that their instincts were all backwards. If you want to see some video of kids trying the bike, click here.
That night, I would bring the bike out on stage as an introduction to my talk. Most teenagers there, like you and I, have experienced the hurt and confusion that comes with broken relationships, shattered expectations, and lost innocence. It was fun to draw parallels between the bike and life–how we can look at life and think “I can do this,” only to be be disillusioned and frustrated when things don’t go our way. Many of us come up with theories about how to make life work. We as humans are bent to look to relationships, achievement, pleasure, image, possessions and other diversions to bring us fulfillment. When that doesn’t work, sometimes we think the answer is to “just go faster.” That is the backwards world we live in–it’s the bike we are constantly falling off of.
In reality, we were created to be fulfilled by the glory and the reality of Jesus Christ. When Jesus said “I am the light of the world (John 8:12),” he is claiming to be the source of our joy and anchor of our hope. When Jesus says “I am the bread of life (John 6:35),” he is claiming to be the one person, the one relationship that gives us the power to put everything else in life in its proper perspective. Jesus is our connection to life the way it was meant to be.
When I was a teenager, my life mimicked the feeling of falling off of the backwards bike. Problems with my family, my friends, finding my identity, etc. left me confused and searching for answers. At seventeen years of age, I attended a week of Young Life camp at Saranac Village, and learned about the importance of Jesus and His gracious love for me expressed on the cross. My life changed that week, and has been different ever since. I still live in a backwards world, affected by sin and brokenness. But now Jesus is my source of joy, and the anchor of my hope. What a privilege it was this August to help hundreds of teenagers discover the same joy and the same hope in Christ.
Thanks to Miller Mechanical Services in Glens Falls, NY for modifying the bike for me.