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O, God, you know our rising up and our sitting down. You are acquainted with all our ways. We do not need to tell you that we fail daily, yet we acknowledge that each new days finds our commitments weakened and our will to do what is right has diminished during the night. We trust in your grace to sustain and forgive us even though we confess the same sin for the hundredth time. Forgive us still.
And may your grace take root in us in such a way that we are ready to forgive sins that have been commuted repeatedly against us. Even if family members take us for granted again in a way that pierces our hearts, even if co-workers or fellow students disrespect our abilities or our contributions again, may we forgive them as often as you forgive us.
We acknowledge before you now what price it cost you to forgive us so often, for we know how dearly our hearts pay to forgive the repeated sins of others. Change us. Change our hearts and our minds so that we no longer see forgiving others as out loss — but as our gain. Help us to see what you have meant forgiveness to be — freedom from past hurts, a path to a new day and a new relationship with others, an unexpected way to receive blessing beyond measure from your very hand.
Forgive us and we commit anew to forgive those who have sinned against us.
In Christ’s name
Corrie Ten Boom
Philip Yancey in Rumors of Another World, p. 218
Soren Kierkegaard in Christian Discourses
Three trips with Lizardhead Cycling have taught me some valuable lessons. The first comes from Lizardhead’s owner, John Humphries, pregame speech – the advice he gives to a group as they set out on a tour. “The greatest accomplishments,” he says, “arise from overcoming adversity.” According to John, the easiest days on a Lizardhead tour are rarely the most rewarding. He says that our favorite memories come from the days we rise above difficulties and trials.
He’s right. My most memorable days include day two of the Redrocks trip – the day which John says is the hardest on any Lizardhead tour. For me, Redrocks II was the second time I ever rode more than a hundred miles in a day. Others may ride 100 miles once a week; I don’t. Additionally, Redrocks II came eight months after prostate surgery (seven moths after being able to sit on a bike) and three weeks after a blood clot behind my left knee. I’m proud of that day.
Another favorite memory was getting back on the bike after a crash while descending Middlebury Gap in New Hampshire on day two of that vacation. Of the three people who crashed that day, I was the only one able to ride again that week. I missed day three of that trip, per doctor’s orders, but I rolled out with the group on day four.
My most memorable day from this year’s Willamette Valley tour was the last day, climbing McKenzie Pass. I hate to climb. My heart might as well have a governor on it; I can’t beat much over 140/minute, which is a real handicap on hills. McKenzie Pass was a 22 mile climb. It’s not near as steep as the New Hampshire Gaps, but it is uphill all the way and a challenge for me. There were no flat spots for the first 14 miles that I can recall. Others may find it easy, but for me it was a three hour slog at maximum heart rate. And I did it, finishing strong at the top. The big challenges produced the best memories.
John Humphries comments about adversity remind me of a similar statement by Clayton Christensen in his book, “How Will you Measure Your Life? “Self esteem,” says Christensen, ” comes from achieving something important when it’s hard to do.” Christensen makes this statement in the context of parenting: “By sheltering children from the problems that arise in life, we have inadvertently denied this generation the ability to develop processes and priorities it needs to succeed….As I look back on my own life, I recognize that some of the greatest gifts I received from my parents stemmed not from what they did for me -but rather from what they didn’t do for me.” [both quotes on p. 134]
As with many of my posts, the moral of the story is about parenting. Children need challenges. They need to solve hard problems. Yet, this generation of helicopter parents thinks they are doing their children a favor by rescuing them from adversity. Today’s parents want to remove all obstacles from the paths of their sons and daughters. They cajole extra time for a school project instead of allowing a child to complete a difficult project in the time allotted. The allow children to watch while completing a science fair project for them, instead of requiring them to stay up late to finish it on their own. They do their children no favors.
The Apostle Paul says, “…suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-5). There are no shortcuts to character and hope. They are qualities only derived from overcoming challenges and adversity. A person can only overcome adversity by facing it. A person can only accomplish great things by attempting difficult things.
Check your own memory. What are some of your best memories of accomplishments? I imagine they include overcoming a hardship or trial. What adversity have you let your children handle by themselves? As much as you want to whiled them from pain, you cripple them by swooping in for the rescue. It may make you feel better about parenting, but it teaches children that they probably couldn’t have done it on their own. It’s not the path to character or self esteem.