Do you remember when you learned how to ride a bicycle? Your world changed that day.
Before you knew how to ride a bike, you were a pedestrian. You had to walk (or run) everywhere, or have someone else take you where you wanted to go. You were limited.
After that day, you could still choose to walk (or you could still ask someone to take you), but you had a new choice: you could ride your bicycle! You had access to new forms of transportation. You were powerful.
And ever since, you’ve had that ability. We even use it as an aphorism: “It’s just like riding a bicycle,” we say, when we want to describe a skill that you never really lose.
Father used that illustration with me recently. “It’s just like riding a bicycle. Once you’ve got it, you never really lose it.”
Let me back up a bit.
Have you ever had a particularly intimate or especially satisfying experience with God?
A friend of mine has had some remarkable experiences with God in what appears to be a garden. I’ve had some encounters in a big paneled library. Others have met him in worship, on quiet walks or in other experiences with him.
Pause for a moment, and think back to one of those times when you experienced God in a special way. Hold that memory in your mind. Have you got it? Now consider:
That was not merely an experience to be remembered (though it was memorable). That was an invitation to come back to that place again and again.
There’s a very real sense in which “It’s just like riding a bicycle.”
In my early experiences of this kind, they happened at God’s initiative. I was just minding my own business in prayer, doing what I regularly do, and the experience or the vision just showed up. It was all his initiative.
Recently, however, my sense has been that this is more up to me now. “I showed you what’s possible. Now it’s your turn.”
And the more I think about the nature of God’s relationship with his children, the more I see him training us for participating with him in the Kingdom we are inheriting with Jesus.
For example, Hebrews 12:8: “If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.” Remember that the word for “discipline” is” παιδεία paideía, pahee-di'-ah: tutorage, i.e. education or training; by implication, disciplinary correction.”
So he initiates the encounters with us the first time or the first few times. But he wants heirs, partners, not servants or perpetually-immature babies, so he invites us to initiate our encounters with him.
Since this is part of God’s training of us, I draw these assumptions (and they are assumptions) from the lessons:
• It’s going to be more difficult for us to initiate those meetings than it was when he did it for us. (See Hebrews 12:11.)
• It will get easier the more we practice. We will eventually get good at it.
• He’s still very eager to meet us. But he’s so committed to our maturity that he’s not going to short-cut the process; that would not be for our good.
So here’s some practical counsel:
○ Review your memories of your favorite or most profitable encounters with God.
○ Exercise your will, and probably your mind’s eye (not unrelated to your imagination) to re-visit that place; not the event of the encounter that you remember, the place. Look for a fresh encounter in the same place.
○ Don’t give up when it’s difficult, or when your experience isn’t what you are really wanting there. Keep pressing in.
○ By my counsel, I’d say stay verbal in the process. Keep talking with God throughout the process. Be transparent (“OK, this feels weird,” is healthy conversation).
○ If this is the first time you’ve tried this, do NOT let yourself be discouraged if you mess up, or if others accuse you of messing up. That’s the joy of a God like ours: we run TO him, we don’t hide from him, when we mess up.
Remember, It’s just like riding a bicycle.