Bushes and Pavement Cracks

As we journey through life, we are constantly at risk. Temptations are tugging at us. The evil one is constantly lurking in the shadows. I was told the story of a woman living in Hungary prior to WW II. She had never ridden a bike as a child, but did learn as an adult, at age 40. My friend, the son of the woman, commented that the bike — when ridden by his mother — had a magnetic attraction to certain bushes and obstacles along the wooded bicycle paths in Hungary. It was inevitable that as she would ride her bike on some trail and come along near a bush, she would invariably end up crashing into the bush.

The explanation is clear. She was focusing her eyes and mind on the bush, and not on the road ahead of her and beyond the bush. By focusing on the bush, her motor reflexes, driven by fear, subconsciously caused her arms to apply a steering torque or action away from the bush. The problem is that the act of turning away, even subconsciously, caused her steering action to shift the bike’s ground contact point away (from the bush), and with the result that the bike was now leaning towards the bush. Bikes tend to go in the direction of lean, because this is the only way to restore balance. Moreover, the tendency of a front fork to turn into the direction of lean is an attribute of the intended shape of the front fork. When a bush or other hazard in life menaces you, the best approach is to look beyond, and to set up actions to keep you on that course. When riding a bike, a fearful steering action initially away is seldom the appropriate action. Yet another serious hazard in riding a bicycle arises when the front wheel might fall into a crack in the road surface. This is especially a risk factor for road cyclists as the tires of modern road bicycles are so narrow, and the speed often attained is such that the rider fails to spot the presence of the crack. When the tire, especially the front tire, falls into a crack, the cyclist is at severe risk of injury. The injury happens because the front fork is now unable to turn, which causes the rider to be unable to apply steering corrections. A violent and sudden crash often results. A deep Biblical question that has faced theologians for a seeming eternity is the matter of the capacity of man to have free will vs. predestination as ordained by God? I, for one, am of the view that these two positions or views are not contradictory but rather compatible.

Scripture in Ephesians 1:4-11 tells us “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.”

The essence is that when we ride a bike we have the capacity (freedom) to apply torques onto the handlebars either logically or willy-nilly. When a child is placed on a bike for the very first time, experience tells us that the steering actions are apt to be wrong – to the point that the child crashes. Experience also tells us that the mature rider who has the misfortune of getting the front wheel stuck in a crack can’t steer and also crashes. In contrast, when a child does master bike riding the steering actions are the child’s free will, but they are also compatible with what it takes to stay upright – and to even navigate wherever the child wishes to go.

A favorite hymn has the words which sum up these thoughts, “We are given the freedom to do what is not pleasing to God; until the Holy Spirit changes our will to be God’s will.”