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Don’t push them too far, too early image

Don’t push them too far, too early

A story about fathers, sons, and lessons learned on mountain bikes.

Time for a break

I stand beside my car, dusty, sweaty, bruised, muddy, tired and thankful. Another 20km mountain bike ride is done and the smile on my face hides the pain emanating from the deep bruise on my left leg. The treacherous rock garden at Mt. Annan has claimed yet another victim.

To many it doesn't sound like fun, nor much to be thankful for, but to me that hour was bliss and it prepares me for what happens next. I'm heading home.

I think being out on the mountain bike in God's good creation, soaking in the sun, breathing the fresh air, helps me to be a better man, husband and father. It's all about time:

  • time out
  • time to reflect
  • time to put the worries of ministry aside
  • time to really enjoy something I love

I'll never be a world champion (or even a local champion) but when the dust flies and the wheels slide, I love it! The exercise clears the head, keeps me fit and enables me to keep up (and keep calm) with my four increasingly active children.

Recently, I decided to take my son Brodie on a mountain bike ride with me. He has just taken up AFL and is obsessed by cricket so we spend a lot of time playing sport at home. It's great fun and when it's just the two of us, it means we spend a lot of time chatting as well. His little seven year old mind has a thousand questions running around inside it. Everything from, "What bat does Sachin Tendulkar use?" to "How does God know what I'm thinking?"

Every moment we spend together is precious and while I can't answer every question, he really appreciates the "man time". So I thought mountain biking together would be a perfect.

My big parenting mistake

We took the bikes down to the local fire trail, nothing too hard. Brodie was totally pumped, as we put on our helmets and off we went. We had not gone 100m and he started to tell me he was afraid. We were going too fast. There were too many rocks. There was too much water.

I responded with a cheerful, “come on, you can do it.”

We moved into our first little descent and he was freaking out. He couldn't do it. He stopped and cried.

I raced to the bottom, turned around, looked at his face and thought "I failed!" I had pushed him too far, too fast and too quickly.

He was afraid, frustrated and disappointed. Afraid because he really thought he was going to do himself some damage. Frustrated that he couldn't ride fast enough with me, and that I had not listened
to his fears and responded appropriately. Disappointed because he felt he had failed me.

It is a humbling thing to sit in the dirt with your son, to apologise for asking him to do more than he was able and to explain that it was not him that had failed me but me who had failed him.

We sat for a while and talked and then he said, "Can you help me get back to the start dad?" Those words warmed my heart and brought me to tears. 

My big parenting lesson

That day I (re)learnt a big parenting lesson in less than 15 minutes: Don't expect more of your children than they can give. Don't push them beyond what they can bear.

We all have dreams and aspirations for our children, but we must learn not to superimpose ourselves or our dreams upon them. 

All this reminded me of the way God treats us. He knows us and is constantly faithful to us, never pushing us beyond what we are capable of. 

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. " (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV84)

There will always be times when our lives feel too difficult to continue on with, when we feel like we just can't keep walking the Christian walk and we want to pack it in. Sometimes we might even feel that God is being unfair to us and expecting more than we can give or do. But that is not what God does and not what God is like.

He will not allow a temptation or some other trial to confront us that we cannot cope with. There will always be the opportunity to say "No!" There will always be the opportunity to make a change. There will always be a way out.

Finding that way out can sometimes be hard, but his faithful promise is that it will always be there.

It's our job to trust God's promise to us.

It's my job to be like God in my relationship with my Son.

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