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Pastor Glenn McDonald: Letting Go

My one-and-only personal experience of mountain biking came in the middle of a summer family outing to the Rocky Mountains. Not far from the place where we were staying, a ski lift was transporting warm weather visitors to the top of an Alpine ridge where, for a couple of bucks, anybody could rent a mountain bike and go careening down the hill.

Our then 11-year-old son Jeff and I were the only takers for this new experience.  Together we hopped on the chairlift and began the ascent to the top.  We hadn’t gone very far when Jeff turned to me and asked what turned out to be an important question:  “Dad, when was the last time you rode a bike?” 

I had no idea when I had last gotten on a bicycle.  From my vantage point on the ski lift, however, I could see parents and kids of all ages biking down the mountain.  How hard could this be?

The helpful young lady at the rental counter fitted me for a bike and a helmet.  She then gave me a quick tour of the gears on my handlebars.  I was floored to learn that there were 21 different speeds.  “Dad,” whispered Jeff, whose embarrassment about being seen with me in public was steadily growing, “everybody knows that.”

The rental agent concluded by emphasizing, “Here are your two hot gears, for those moments when you really want to pick up speed.” 

Great.  We’ll keep that in mind.  Off we went on our cycling odyssey.

I had already identified the bike trail that seemed custom-made for us.  It was called “Cinch.”  It was four-and-a-half miles of twists and turns past towering pines and quaking aspens.  And definitely for beginners.  I pedaled once, just to get started…and that was the last time I needed to pedal my bike all the way down the mountain.  Gravity did the rest. Most of the way I was scared to death. 

I squeezed the brakes so tightly that my hands began to ache.  In fact we stopped a few times on the trail just to give them a rest. 

I was so nervous about losing control and launching myself over some hundred-foot precipice – and hoping that at least they’d spell my first name with two ns on the memorial plaque – that I literally ended up hurting myself in my attempt to slow the pace.

Not everybody who rides mountain bikes has my kind of experience.  Every now and then, as I squeezed the brakes harder to maintain control, we would hear other bikers coming up behind us.

“Coming left!” they would shout, and before I even had time to react they were flying past us in a blur, then down around the next corner and gone.  I couldn’t believe it.  Their bikes were identical to mine.  What did they have that I didn’t have? They had trust. They had learned from experience that their bikes were perfectly capable of handling mountain trails at great speed.  So was my bike. 

I just never let go of the brakes.

There are two ways to head down whatever path you’re on this week:  You can do everything possible to stay in control, or you can take the risk that playing it safe isn’t always the safest thing to do.

It’s hard to watch your teenager take off on his first solo drive in the family car, or wave goodbye to your daughter on her first day at college, without thinking, “But I’m still in control of what happens next, right?” No, you’re not.

In most of life’s endeavors, there comes a time to let go.  We have ample opportunities to influence what happens next in life, whether learning how to manage a mountain bike, launching a new project, or training a child.  We prepare diligently.  We discover appropriate “do’s” and “don’ts.”  We go forward prayerfully. But the moment always arrives when there's nothing left to do.  Having done our very best, we leave the results to God.   

Of course, it feels as if there's something else we can do.  We can worry. But worry changes nothing.  It's born of the illusion that we're still somehow in control, and that our fretting will make a difference. 

It's worth noting that there's no verse in the Bible that says, "And God began to worry."   God has nothing to worry to about.  That's because God is actually in control of the universe.  Which is why we can relinquish control of a special project or a priceless person or whatever is on our calendar today.  We're merely surrendering what we never really had in the first place.  

Author and philosopher Dallas Willard revealed, "At the beginning of each morning I commit my day to the Lord's care... I have already placed God in charge.  I no longer have to manage the weather, airplanes, and other people."  

That's the antidote for worry.  By taking our minds off the myriad what-might-happens today, we're free to give our full attention to the One who is actually in control.  

What, in the end, is the difference between you and God?  

God doesn't think he's you. 

God will actually be in charge of the cosmos during the next 24 hours. Which means, as we place our trust in him, we can risk letting go of the brakes and experience the adventure we actually signed up for.    


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