Imagine you are standing on the balance beam. If you watch gymnastics, you have probably seen the incredible acrobatics that gymnasts can do while staying on this narrow piece of equipment. From somersaults to handstands, they look perfectly in control as they elegantly travel the beam. Maybe you can’t imagine yourself doing those same acrobatics, but you’re probably not afraid of falling off if you walked across, because the floor is cushioned and only four feet below you.
Now, imagine yourself on a bike, about to ride across the Grand Canyon on a slackline about the same width as your wheel’s thickness, with nothing to tether you to the line or to the ground. Apart from the heart-stopping height and seeing the ground so far below you, the winds whipping against you and the sounds around you could fill you with fear. If you don’t feel confident about your ability to ride your bike, it can be even more frightening. Most of us wouldn’t even dare to attempt it.
One of my professors at Ouachita explained that the will of God is not a balance beam or tightrope; it is more like a sidewalk. Though that statement seemed very vivid and full of imagery, I have only started to understand it more recently.
Personally, although I was certainly not a fearless, tight-rope walking, gymnastics-loving child, I used to like walking across the edge of the sidewalk or on the raised cement planters in people’s yards because I liked the feeling of having my arms spread out and of placing one foot exactly in front of the other. I knew that if I were to fall off, I wouldn’t fall too far. However, balancing when I rode my bike was a different story. Actually, I disliked it so much that I never learned how to do it well.
Because of this, I recently got into an accident riding an electric scooter. My lack of balance on two-wheeled vehicles extended to the scooter, and I fell and scraped my elbow badly. I’m still healing from some more bruises and scrapes all over, but the biggest thing that I received from the fall was a reality check. I decided I really needed to learn how to ride a bicycle and so I have been working on it, riding on a lot of sidewalks in the process.
As I’ve practiced, I’ve noticed several ideas that relate to what my professor had shared. I think the idea that the will of God is exactly one single plan for your life can make people feel like they are walking on a balance beam or tightrope. One wrong step, and you fall out of His will forever. This idea can make us feel just as frightened and paralyzed as imagining the scene where you are riding across the Grand Canyon on a bicycle.
If we make mistakes and have regrets every day, no matter how minimal, we have stepped off that tightrope long ago. This idea can turn into believing that maybe we are living in God’s plan B—or even plan X, Y or Z—for our lives. If you have ever felt trapped in this belief, I want to tell you that your sins and mistakes have not forfeited God’s best plan for your life.
Think of it this way: every day, you get to make just as many good decisions as bad decisions. They may take the course of your day in a different direction, and eventually, the sum of the choices you make may change the course of your life. One day, we will all stand before the judgement seat of Christ, and: “Whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord” (Ephesians 6:8). This is an incredible statement because even the tiniest good deeds we do, even if they remain unseen by people, will be written down in the story of our lives and accounted for in our eternal reward.
This implies that our best life is changing constantly, because every good deed is being written down and changing the journey of our life. We are not just riding on a perfect sidewalk, but a constantly changing sidewalk where our daily choices are affecting the choices we will get to make in the future. Your good, loving deeds towards God or your neighbor are being recorded, but it would be ridiculous to assume that they are all on one perfectly straight line, one foot after the other. Additionally, every decision, no matter how good and loving it may seem, is tainted because I am a sinful human being. This is when the Lord’s sovereignty and grace becomes so reassuring, because even though we cannot see our own future, He can, and even when we make mistakes, we can be forgiven.
Going back to the bicycle analogy, choosing which good deeds to do throughout our days and throughout our lives is like taking a slight left or right but staying on the sidewalk. We are free to make those choices while remaining in the will of God. Truly, as fallen people, we can’t make perfect decisions, but even in moments of fear, when there are bumps in the road and when we may jerk the handlebars and get close to straying off the path, the Holy Spirit guides us and prevents us from going astray. Nevertheless, we do have the free will to make our own decisions, even if our decision is to stray off the path.
If you have had moments of your life where you have felt deep regret, I want to encourage you with the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 7:8-11, where he tells the Corinthians: “Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while—yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.”
If you still feel regret, let it lead you to repentance and a desire to do good. We will never be able to take back the miles that we have already travelled, whether they have been on the “sidewalk” of God’s will or far away from it. But we can do what Paul did: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13b-14). Imagine how much Paul had to repent and leave in the past. He had persecuted Christians to their death! And yet, he still found grace after repentance, and lived a life of joy, delighting in his freedom and salvation. In fact, he probably felt so much more freedom in Christ than when he was a student under Rabbi Gamaliel, bound by the strict laws of Judaism.
This is where the contrast comes in. Instead of a life of constant fear of failure on the tightrope, God invites you to a life of freedom on the sidewalk. As I rode my bike, I wasn’t able to ride it completely straight, but that didn’t mean every little turn it made was a mistake. I made it safely to my destination and enjoyed the ride. Even more, when we consider that our destination as believers is eternal life in Heaven, the journey through life becomes a greater joy. Though our freedom is not like a highway, where you can move wherever you want and do whatever you please, it is not as narrow as a tightrope. We cannot become paralyzed with fear, because when you stop pedaling it becomes harder to stay balanced. Even if we make mistakes, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28a). If we love him and seek His will in the freedom that He has given us, He will work all things—in our past, our present, and our future—for our good. We cannot fall out of the plan of God.
At the beginning of this year, I wrote in my journal: “I am completely unwilling to settle for anything less than what God has for me.” Though the heart behind this statement is still true, I do remember the fear that came with the thought that I had to know God’s will exactly before making a choice. Now I know that if God opens up good possibilities and decisions before me, it is not a test or a trick to see if I will step off the balance beam, ruining His will for my life irreparably. It is freedom that I must steward with wisdom and by His side. Every new day and every choice before me is a new chance to honor Him.
I pray that you come to realize the freedom that you have given in Christ. May we rejoice with each other in our salvation and encourage each other to gather up good deeds in Heaven. May we repent of our sins with a repentance that leads to life and justice. I pray that our hunger and thirst for wisdom will increase and that we may listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
I encourage you to extend the grace you have been given to others who may be struggling in the fear and paralysis of making the right choice. As you spend time in the Scriptures, let them impart you with wisdom to make the right choice and practice listening to the Holy Spirit, which will give you so much more confidence as you ride through life!
Thank you for reading! Read more blog posts at Yours Truly, Isa.