Sometimes kids get what adults fail to understand ... sometimes. Yesterday I went out on a cycling expedition with some of my children. We had already toured the eastern part of Montreal Island so we had decided to do the Western half, an estimated 75 km trip. One of my sons invited a friend so I took the time to explain to this friend how far we were going, what route we were taking and an estimate of how long it would take. I asked him if he really wanted to go that far and he gave an enthusiastic yes. I check what supplies he had brought and discovered he had forgotten his water so I gave him a container and told him to fill it up.
It was a beautiful day, comfortable without being hot. My oldest son going on this trip surprised me as we were leaving by asking if we could extend the trip to 100 km because we had already done a 86 km trip the previous week. I told him we could make that decision 3/4 quarters of the way through, depending on how they were feeling. My eight year old wonder woman daughter was with us, having easily completed the 86 km trip from the previous week.
The first 5 km was a breeze except for the fact that our guest fell way behind us. One of my sons had stayed with him but we had to wait for him to catch up. I again explained to him the necessity to keep pace which was being set by my 8 year old daughter. Because we were moving out onto a long section where we had to share the road with motor vehicles I went over the rules of the road again, stressing the necessity to stay to the right, next to the curb, at all times.
It wasn't long before our guest had fallen behind again, with one of my sons staying with him. Once again we were forced to wait for him to catch up. I checked his gear settings and he was in the right gear but he just wasn't putting the effort into it. We kept doing this with him falling behind and us waiting, always with one of my sons staying with him, until we got to our first official rest stop. It was there that I discovered that he hadn't bothered filling up the container with water like I had told him too. I had to give him the extra water container that I always carried for emergencies. This was an emergency. My boys also informed me that he wasn't following the rules and they had to keep getting after him to stay to the side of the road. Time for a new strategy.
As we set out my daughter and I took up the rear with our guest in front of us and I asked my boys to lead the way. Sure enough our guest moved out to the middle of the busy street. I had to keep correcting him every few minutes as he would slowly wonder back out. My daughter was so frustrated with his slow progress that she kept telling me that in her opinion he should not have come. But my boys would not allow her to keep saying this. They kindly rebuked her by explaining that their friend was not use to this and there was a deficiency in his bicycle. That's when I started noticing what they were doing.
I took over the lead again because my boys were uncertain of the direction and right away one of them dropped back with their friend. I overheard them speaking words of encouragement and engaging in conversation to take his mind off the task. My eldest son on this trip told me he was frustrated but he was proud of his friend for doing this. He also said all his friend needed was a cycling coach so he was going to spend time with him next week to help him do better. Then he told me he thought it best we not do the 100 km but instead take a short cut home so his friend wouldn't have to go so far. The entire trip these two sons kept taking turns to hang back with their friend to encourage him.
Finally we got to a point in our trip where our guest refused to go any further. He called his mom to come pick him up but she had no idea how to get to where we were so we had to encourage him to continue to a place with which she was more familiar. Because of their encouragement our guest ended up cycling for 81 km. My children completed 86 km by the time we pulled in the driveway. Because of our guest, the trip lasted 5 hours longer than it should have and we did not arrive home until 10 pm, having had no super. Yet, not a word of complaint was spoken from any of them, even my 8 year old daughter.
I was reminded of the power of friendship yesterday. I was reminded that selfless friendship can help us become more than what we are. If these are the bonds of an earthly friendship how much stronger should our spiritual relationships of love be with each other? We need to know nothing other than a person is in Christ and the bonds of love should fasten us fast to each other. Our responsibility is then to set aside our own interest to encourage and lift up one another. It is amazing how much this encouragement in the love of Jesus can help us overcome so many obstacles and go the distance. If children can understand this in the earthly relationships, why do we mature adults falter in our spiritual relationships? The Scriptures speak clearly that we are to set aside our own interest for the sake of others and we are told that the strong need to be patient with the weak:
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself. (Romans 15:1-3)
I wonder if you have any friends who need you to sacrifice your personal goals, to slow down to be with them so you can speak words of encouragement to help them along. Maybe you will not reach your goal but you may help them go further than they thought possible. After all, the Kingdom is not about us, it is about others. Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow the example of Jesus. I am very proud that my children have understood at least this much.