Just Like Riding a Bike


Four years ago a teen-aged boy pointed a gun at me while demanding I give him my money. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon in Oakland, California. I was standing at the flagpole in front of the elementary school where I’d recently been assigned to teach. My husband Chris and I had ridden our bikes there together, trying to determine the best route for my commute.

After he waved it in my face, the gunman turned to Chris, jabbing the weapon toward his chest, repeating his demand for money. Chris slowly took out his wallet and passed him the bills. As he took the money and ran down the block, we got back on our bikes and rode to a liquor store where we called the police.

When the cops arrived, they took down our story, called in an account of the suspect, put our bikes in the trunk of their squad car and drove us home. Riding in the back of that car felt like being secured in a tank, there was hot relief in my chest that nothing could happen to us behind the locked doors and heavy glass. I saw a boy pass on a bicycle and it occurred to me for the first time how vulnerable it is, to pedal around the streets with no walls between you and the world around you. I wondered if I would ever ride a bike again.

I didn’t.

Though I had been a bike commuter and recreational rider for years, I didn’t get back on my bike. I didn’t get on that week or that month or that year. I tripped over it in the garage, demurred when Chris asked if I wanted to ride somewhere with him, not wanting to outright refuse and risk actually having to talk about the feelings of dread that sat heavy in my stomach every time I thought about going out into the world on my bike.

Then I got pregnant and had a baby. A few months later another followed. No one expected the pregnant lady to be tooting around on a bicycle. After our second child was born we moved to Colorado, where most people’s bikes were put away for the winter. But ever since the grass turned green and flowers began to bloom, I’ve known it’s time. Time to face the unsettled feeling I have when I see my bike leaned up on the back fence.

My 33rd birthday was last weekend. I asked Chris to fix up my bike as my gift to myself. Our first family ride was a spectacular failure. I sobbed the whole time, the trailer for the babies got a flat tire, Chris ended up going home via a different route and I panicked we couldn’t find each other for nearly half an hour. But my “I can’t” and “Never agains” died on the pavement in front of our apartment, even as the tears streamed down my face.

Wednesday night after work we tried again. I packed a picnic dinner and we rode to a park in the cool of the evening. It was beautiful, easy, like something we’d done a thousand times before. And as my toddler climbed up the play structure and my baby sucked on fruit in the grass at my feet, I thought about fear.

Sometimes we’re afraid of the wrong things. It’s a lot easier to be afraid of riding a bike and so choose to let it gather dust in my garage than it is to face the reality of living in a world where people threaten each other with guns at elementary schools.

Riding my bike with my family was a step toward deeper trust in a God who holds the whole world in His hands—the whole broken messy world where children die unexpectedly and people are shot at malls and movie theaters and no place is truly safe. I live here and though I feel afraid, I am not alone.

I’m learning again to trust Him with my fears and realizing that in not facing them for sometime, I’m out of practice. But trust is a muscle, the more I exercise it, the stronger it surges in my heart. I’m wobbling toward Jesus and remembering that this has always been the path toward freedom and away from fear.

Turns out, it’s just like riding a bike.

Lindsey Smallwood
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34 thoughts on “Just Like Riding a Bike

  1. Great stuff Lindsey! This hit me with power: “But my “I can’t” and “Never agains” died on the pavement in front of our apartment, even as the tears streamed down my face.”
    It’s such a beautiful thing to fight for the victory Christ offers.

    • Isn’t it? And it IS a fight, but He fights for us, if we’re willing to take a step of trust toward Him. Thanks for sharing and encouraging friend.

  2. Ack. So good, Lindsey. I’m glad you’re on your bike again, and I’m glad you’re processing the trauma instead of hiding it.

  3. Love this, Lindsey. All of it. Such beautiful writing and moments of facing fear. Thanks for being brave and sharing with us here.

  4. Love this and I’m “wobbling toward Jesus” with you! His peace and strength are always with us even in the most terrifying, painful situations! Whether it’s a moment in time or years of struggle with health or financial problems, He is always, always with us and holding us in His love! Thank you for this beautiful encouragement today!

  5. Oh man, this is so good. Thanks for the vulnerability. There’s a big #metoo in this one.

  6. Thank you for sharing your story! How terrifying that must have been! Then opening yourself up again to something you weren’t quite comfortable with is inspiring!

    • It’s funny how sometimes we make simple things into hard things, only to realize that they can be simple things again. God is good, thanks for reading Theresa.

  7. Lindsey, I read this in my inbox today. Then, I went over to a FB community I’m in and you’d shared it there too. Fun to see it a couple times! Such a good article. It’s so important to identify the right things to be afraid of. Identifying it often goes a long way in overcoming it!

    • Traci – thanks for your encouraging words. You are so right – I really do think that noticing, identifying the real source of our fears goes a long way toward finding freedom from them.

  8. Oh that is a scary thing that happened to you! I’m glad you were able to overome your fears! I enjoyed reading this article!

  9. So scary. It is hard to face our fears, and also harder to admit that there are larger fears we are scared of that are being masked by the small fears. So glad you got back on a didn’t give up for good. Definitely sharing this post 🙂

  10. Am I the only one seeing quite a different story here? Am I the only one to see that Lindsey was scared to death when the robber had a gun pointed at her, but felt quite safe from the inside of a cop car, protected by the cop with a gun. Am I the only person to note that Lindsey observed the vulnerable kid on a bicycle , as she was safe inside the confines of the cop car? Am I also the only reader of this piece to observe, note and wonder why Lindsey mentions the children killed in the schools and shopping malls by guns? She eventually gets to her point, albeit, extremely weak and extremely late. Four years after her experience she has finally found the courage to trust in the very Jesus that she professes to have known for most of her life.
    This reader questions the author of this piece. As to other readers that have commented, what exactly WERE you reading?

  11. I read a quote the other day…”everything you are waiting for is just on the other side of fear.” It’s such a powerful emotion, isn’t it. It can really malign God’s plans for us – it can paralyze us. Which is probably why God tells us to fear not – go figure. 😉 Faith is a muscle for sure and one that we exercise our entire lives, but the single most important and largest source of strength. It’s worth the work, right.

    • Wow, I love that quote. And you’re so right, it feels like Scripture is one long record of God reminding us not to fear. Totally worth the hard work to stretch our faith muscle, thanks Tiffany.

  12. I’m riddled with fear. Every time I think I’ve conquered one I find 2 more lurking in my heart that I hadn’t noticed. It’s god to work through them. I’m not sure we will ever be totally free of it this side of heaven, but it does feel good when we get past some of the big ones.

    • So true, Sasha. I am similar and it’s usually when I’m pleased about victory in one area that I realize there’s another spot where I’m letting fear win. Thankful that Jesus stands with us in the middle of it. Love you.

  13. I want to gently add that there is no reason to get rid of all fear. I used to be afraid to drive on the throughway, did it anyway – YAY! So these days I cannot drive at all because of vision problems. There was a period when I thought, omg, how will I go anywhere and that caused angst. I suppose I could get all riled up about this phase, but then my world could get smaller and smaller. In reality, it’s getting bigger, as I share what’s going on and perhaps give a little encouragement to someone else. It’s like a (metaphorical balloon) which expands to make room for new experiences – some of them happy, others not so much – but they make me feel rich.

    • Love that image, that change isn’t always loss, sometimes it’s an expansion into something we hadn’t considered before. Thanks for that perspective.

  14. Tears friend. Just tears. I love the way you so honestly share your thoughts, your life. Yes, it is like riding a bike isn’t it. And what grace that is.

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