The Father’s Hand

St. Louis reached seventy-three degrees last week. With temperatures like that, you spend as much time outside as possible, no matter how dark or looming the horizon. After work on Monday, we loaded Ian’s bicycle into the car and headed to Forest Park, there to bask in its fountainy goodness.

One problem with our neighborhood is its lack of sidewalks. The streets can be busy, too, so there’s no safe place for Ian to (learn to) ride his bike. It’s either down our driveway—into oncoming traffic—or down the street…into oncoming traffic.

Ian isn’t as confident with his bicycle as he could be.

It’s not that he doesn’t understand the concepts of moving his feet and watching where he’s going: he just can’t do them at the same time. If he looks forward, he back-pedals and slams to a halt. If he watches the pedals, he slams into a tree.

Three feet later and I was ready to put the bike back into the car. But we assured and cajoled and placed our hands on Ian’s back as he gained his confidence. From ‘Let’s go home’ to ‘See how fast’ in fifteen minutes.

Confidence, though, can be dangerous when combined with bridges, and Forest Park has several. Our favorite is the ‘wiggly bridge’, suspended over a tributary of the Grand Basin and perfectly balanced for bouncing above the water. It has an imposing incline for a four-year-old learning to ride a bicycle, and either end is flanked by concrete columns imposing for the father of a four-year-old learning to a bicycle.

As we pushed and pedaled our way across the bridge, I suddenly put decline and concrete together, and placed my hand on Ian’s handlebars. He stopped pedaling and let his hands dangle from the handles, and I guided him safely to the end.

Which isn’t what I’d intended. The safe part was great, but we cross that bridge every time we come to the park. Life is full of bridges, and at some point I’d like Ian to learn to use inertia and gravity to his advantage. At some point I’d like to remove his training wheels.

So on the return trip I surreptitiously gripped the back of Ian’s seat, slowing his speed but giving him free reign with direction. He didn’t notice, didn’t panic, kept pedaling, and steered his way between the columns.

By now it seems cliche to say that fatherhood has helped me understand God better than any devotional or TBN special. I’ve been saying that since Ian was born; literally, since that very day. Yet every so often I catch a glimpse, and I am sympathetic and thankful, and amazed that God guides us with his hand.

Countless bicycles across countless spans, loving and worrying and keeping us safe, despite our confidence and surety that no one is behind us.

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  1. keri
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