Skate, Swagger, and Roll

The kids and I went roller skating this weekend with some cousins. Chloe got skates last Christmas so she was very steady on her feet. But this was Jamie’s first time at the rink. He wanted to take his bicycle helmet. I tried to tell him that wasn’t necessary, but then decided against it. Maybe he had a point; a helmet might be a good idea.

I found out at the skate rental counter they can lock the wheels. Basically, Jamie could walk and call it “skating”. Why did I never know this before now? I’m thinking that would have been useful information when I was a kid. Yes, please lock his wheels.

We get out onto the rink, and Jamie is “skating” along the wall. About two minutes into it, he is angry. “I don’t like these skates, I want to go faster”, he says, and then plops down on the floor in heated protest. My, my…what have we here? I am surprised by such attitude from the newbie. I guess a quarter of the way around the rink, and he is an expert already. I help him to his feet and encourage him on. A few minutes later (still not all the way around the first lap), “I want skates like your skates. I don’t like these skates. These are no good” (as he plops down again). I am thinking this is going to be a long afternoon. Now, I am amused. Jamie really thinks he can skate even though he has never skated in his entire life. Alright, Jamie; let’s go ask the man to unlock your wheels.

Mister big-britches liked that idea and led the way back to the counter. It’s not that I enjoyed what we all know happened next, I just know my son. Jamie has to experience the pain of the hard way before he accepts instruction. He is not a natural-born believer in parental wisdom. He thinks he knows best. Well, let’s just say Jamie is a believer now. The helmet was definitely God-inspired wisdom. I watched silently as Bambi tried to find his legs, wondering how long this was going to take. He wobbled and flopped and fell again and again. Fortunately, it only took a few minutes for him to come to some important realizations. This skating thing is harder than I thought.  I can’t do this without some help. Maybe I do want those wheel locks after all. He plopped down again next to me; this time in humble admission. Jamie was finally ready to accept where he was, and move forward with the rest of our day.

As I watched Jamie, I had to admit I saw something else: myself. I saw a familiar pressure to be further ahead of where I truly am. It must be innate because I know I didn’t teach that to him. Well, at least not on purpose. It was somewhat funny to watch him. He was the only kid in the whole place wearing a bicycle helmet. He thought he was so cool. The kid actually had a swagger. I’ve never seen a swagger like that, especially on skates for the first time! His bravado astounded me. He clapped and bounced to the beat of the music. He waved at people and tried to make conversation with everyone. He was buzzing in the excitement of being part of the scene. He didn’t seem to notice, or care, when the older kids whizzed by without so much as even a glance in his direction. He really looked like he believed he belonged there. I spent the next two hours trying to keep Mick Swagger from being trampled to death in his unmerited pride.

There was a serious part in my reflection though. I wondered how Jamie’s drive would interfere with his ability to just be a child. I know firsthand how this pressure to be ahead can really be a cover up for not liking ourselves as we are. I’ve always felt I had to be better, faster, smarter, or stronger. It has been hard for me to give myself permission to just be where I am, and let go of all the expectations I have for myself.

I noticed something about Jamie after the wheel lock incident. Jamie was happier when he accepted himself honestly right where he was. His acceptance freed him to enjoy practicing, learning, and growing in his skating ability. There is a lesson here for all of us. Sometimes we don’t like where we are in life either. Sometimes it feels like the wheels are locked, and we are being held back from where we want to go, or think we should be. Sometimes hidden in all our pressure to be ahead is a deep-seated doubt that we will ever measure up. Relax. We are all so caught up in ourselves that we mostly don’t pay attention to each other, just like the older kids and Jamie.

We do have a Loving Father who takes notice of us in the crowded rink of life. He knows exactly where we are and what we need to move forward in perfect pace. He governs every move we make, but gives us the freedom of trial and error. He allows falls, bumps, and bruises. He waits to help us back up when we are ready to receive His wisdom and help. Our Father knows best when it is time to unlock the wheels. We would do well to recognize this truth, accepting where we are and turning our attention to trying our wheels in faith.

 “In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Ephesians 3:21).

The funny thing is, we find the belonging we always wanted when we learn to trust Him where we are. Our desire to fit in and be accepted is what causes all our impatience, frustration, and posturing in the first place. Being cool is having the humility to accept who you are; as you are, without the need to be someone you are not….yet. It is learning to walk before trying to skate. We grow by admitting our need and accepting the Father’s offer of help. We can approach Him in confidence of His love for us, and be freed from the prison of pretense to just be ourselves. 

And the helmet is definitely a good idea. If you are like Jamie and me, you’ll fall down often in learning this lesson.