It won't change you.
I'm in the slowest gear. I'm huffing and puffing. My eighth grade body is mad, really mad. My quads are protesting for me to stop pushing the pedal forward against the steep incline. I can see the top, and it is very far away.
I remember the last time I walked up the hill and met my dad at the top. He had ridden his red recumbent bicycle the entire way up. He always did. He looked at me and said, "You know you can ride up that hill right? You know you can do it?"
I took it as a challenge.
Griebling Hill is not just any hill. It is the mother of all hills, a cyclist's nightmare. It is long and has several slight plateaus along the way that trick you into thinking you have made it. Just when you reach the top of that dip, you realize there is much, much more hill to go.
We were training for the Great Ohio Bike Adventure and we rode this route back from the trail on every training ride. It was the only way home. Griebling was a roller coaster starting out. We had to break continually to stop from going 40mph down the beast. Yet how I resented riding back up after our muscles were already tired and ready to quit.
Pedal. Pedal. Pedal. 6 mph. 4 mph. My speedometer wasn't helping my mental battle. "Think of something else Jillian. Think of ANYTHING else. The last episode of Gilmore Girls. The ice cream cake you will eat when you get home. That cute boy in youth group."
And there was the praying and pleading with God near the end. "God make it stop!"
Then I was there. Next to my dad, who was whooping and hollaring, "YOU DID IT! That's my girl!"
I never walked up Griebling Hill after that day.
When I think of the challenges in my life, that I've faced or I'm about to face, I think of that day, of Griebling Hill, and especially of my dad. He believed in me. It was the first time I had done something I thought I could never do, the first big challenge I remember overcoming in my short 13 year old lifetime.
When I was getting ready to give birth to Titus, I asked Dad if he would go take pictures of Griebling for my birthing kit. I wanted to focus on the top of the hill, to remember that I could do it. My dad went out in subzero Ohio weather to take not one picture of it, but several. He captured every nuance, barn, field, along the way. It is one of the greatest gifts he has ever given me.
I've never been so challenged, or changed, than by bringing Titus into and up in this world. People say that parenthood is a challenge, that it will change you. But I think the challenge usually ends up being the changer.
I thought I just wanted the analogy to give birth to Titus. Yet now I realize the whole pushing and breathing thing is barely the first few pedals of the hill. It's a pretty violent beginning, perhaps to give you confidence. If we made it through that, ladies, than we can do anything right? Yet, I don't feel this confidence when I think about discipline, toddlerhood, potty training, temper tantrums, puberty, technology, finding the right school, teenagerhood, dating, yada yada yada. Why don't they offer an epidural for these parenting pains? I could go on for days of the upcoming challenges in parenting that absolutely terrify me.
Titus is only one now. I feel absolutely overwhelmed at the enormity of the task God placed in my hands, at the hill we are to climb. Even when Titus moves out of our house and into adulthood, we won't stop being his parents. What if I can't push anymore? What if I can't stand it and have to get off the bike? I've never climbed this hill before. How do I know I am capable of this?
I'm sober-minded knowing I'm the one God has chosen to mother these children. I'm not equipped Lord. I don't have the muscles. And look at all the other moms whizzing past me in their fancy sports gear! I can't focus. I already need to take a break.
Then I hear my Heavenly Father, in the words of my earthly one, saying "You know you can do this right? I made you for this. One foot, one pedal, one push at a time."
I see Him at the top of the hill cheering us on, through every sleepless night, through every time we question if we handled a situation the right way, through every time we have to apologize for failing our kids.
He has gone before us. There is not a section of this hill He has not pedaled first. He already carved the path. He wouldn't ask us to pedal up this hill if He didn't know we could do it. And He will be right there to pick us up when we fall, get a flat tire, or need a giant Cliff Bar. Our parenting manna from heaven.
And I imagine sometimes He will just go ahead and take over the pedaling for us when we are too weary. Or perhaps it is more like a tandem bike situation, when God is in the front steering us along?
And He is changing me, and I suspect it is from realizing He is with me. He is behind, before, and maybe even in the form of the many red recumbent cheerleaders next to me, riding along for the journey.
What challenges are you facing today? Be it the challenge of parenthood, or something very different, can I join with God in cheering you on? I'd love to wear a foam finger for all that pedaling you are doing. And if no one has told you today, I believe in you.
You know you can do this, right?