Until about a month ago, I thought I had a very distinct childhood memory, forever etched into my mind as the moment my dad let me go at the top of the big hill.
I was still young enough to wear pigtails, and I had just scored a brand new pair of rollerblades. We went to the path that winds around a little lake by my elementary school. It’s probably about a mile all the way around. In the last leg of the circle, you reach a really big hill. My dad had guided me around the whole lake, building my confidence in my new skills to the point where I thought I could glide on air.
Here’s where the memory gets a little fuzzy.
In a recent trip back to circle this lake, my mom and I reached the big hill.
“This is the hill where Dad let me go down on my rollerblades,” I said. “And I crashed and burned at the bottom.”
“Isn’t perspective a funny thing,” Mom replied. “Your father let you go because you begged him to let you go. You said you were ready and you didn’t need his help anymore.”
And this is the moment when I filed my childhood memory into a new category, a shift from “Letdown” to “Stubborn.”
I recently did a thorough reading of the book of Judges. Do you realize how many times it says the phrase, “Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord…”? I don’t know about you, but it made me nauseous reading this line again and again and again.
Are they seriously turning away from God again, forgetting God again, worshipping other gods again, trying to conquer the hill on their own again? Don’t they know they will end up shattered and crushed, they will cry out to God for deliverance when they realize again they can’t live in peace until they rely on God with all of their hearts?
Maybe I’m so nauseous reading about this cycle because I could navigate my way around this circle with my eyes closed.
Maybe I’m so nauseous reading about this cycle because this is the circle around my little lake, as I’ve tried to tackle the big hill on my own—again and again…and again.
Just like learning to rollerblade around the little lake, my confidence in my faith often grows bigger and bigger. And then this terrifying thing happens. I actually pray the prayer from Psalm 139:23 (NIV): “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”
I am warning you now, be careful when you pray this prayer.
For me, I said these words in moments when I thought I could do it on my own. I thought my faith was strong enough. I thought I could make it down the big hill on my own, without anyone’s help.
Go ahead, God. Test me. I’ve got this one.
Looking back on the big crash-and-burn moments after praying this prayer, I realize that my faith reached a peak where I thought I didn’t need God anymore. Without even knowing it, I begged for my Father to let me go at the top of the hill, to let me glide down with ease, to take matters into my own hands. After all, he wasn’t giving me the instant gratification of reaching my ten-year goals right now, so why would I keep holding onto His hands for guidance?
But what do you know, I crashed at the bottom of the big hill, shattered and crushed, a puddle of tears and scrapes and bruises, crying out for help. Rescue me. Now. I wasn’t ready. I’m not able to do this on my own.
The hardest part about re-categorizing this childhood memory is admitting my stubbornness. “You were right. I wasn’t ready for that big hill on my own,” I wish I could say with confidence.
I want growth to happen overnight. I want one mile to be long enough to learn how to skate on my own.
And when it doesn’t, sometimes our Father lets us go at the top of the big hill, to show our stubborn selves that when we try to do it on our own and we aren’t ready, we will crash at the bottom of the big hill.
God isn’t nauseated by our endless cycles, our constant relearning again and again around this same circle. But wouldn’t it be easier if I just skipped the pain of the crash that brings me to my knees, admitted my stubbornness, and let Him hold my hands and never let me go?
I want to forever etch this childhood memory into my mind as the moment I learned how to glide in peace with all of my heart and soul. The moment I moved from wallowing in the pain of the crash, to anger that He would really let me go, to crying out with the choir in full submission, “I can’t do this on my own.”