I practically grew up in a canoe. From a very young age, my father took my brother and me canoeing. We often rivers like the South Anna, the North Anna, and the mighty James. I learned how to canoe at 4-H camp, and perfected each type of stroke through hours of practice. Then, I grew up. As an adult, I neither had a canoe nor borrowed a friend’s. For a very, very long time. Then, a friend of mine took me canoeing a few years ago, and it was like beginning again. I had to re-learn the strokes, and how to keep my balance. With my friend, I regained the ability that I thought I had lost. The good news is that it could be done. This week, I bought my own canoe. I was so excited to use it for the first time!
|The redneck way I carried my canoe home from the store|
Before my initial excursion, I had a phone conversation with my brother, a former canoeing instructor. He asked me if I remembered the J-stroke, the Crosshand Draw, and a few others. I couldn’t remember any of them by name, but I didn’t want to admit it to him. “Of course I know those strokes,” I told him. And I wasn’t lying. The first time I took my new canoe out with my son, I navigated the boat perfectly. Even though I couldn’t remember the strokes by name, I knew every one of them. With my friend, I had practiced them to the point that they had become muscle-memory, and I could execute them without really thinking about them very much. Even though I had forgotten how to paddle, my friend had encouraged me and helped me re-learn what I’d forgotten.
Recently, my wife Beth has been visiting the bicycle section at various department stores where we shop. She’s begun to look with nostalgia at the bikes on the rack, and wonder whether she might be able to ride again after so many years. Everybody has heard the expression, “It’s like riding a bike,” which means, “This is something that you never really forget how to do, or at least it’s something you can re-learn quickly.” If she decides to buy herself a bike, I suppose she’ll find out that riding a bike really is like riding a bike.
For a lot of people, going to church is like my canoe or Beth’s bike. For one reason or another, they grew up and got out of the habit. They told themselves that it was for kids, or that they’d outgrown the need for church. It may have been second nature when they were growing up, but now they’ve been away for so long that they worry what might happen if they darken the door again. Will they be able to keep their balance? Will they figure out how to navigate the unfamiliar waters of church once more?
Let me tell you, getting back to church is like riding a bike. If you’ve been away for awhile, you may think you’ve forgotten what to do when you’re there. But once you return it’ll be like you never left. Job 22.23 (NIV) says, “If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored.” Like paddling a canoe, you’ll find that when you return to the Lord it doesn’t take long to regain what you’ve forgotten. I hope you’ll return and re-learn. It’s going to be a great ride!