We just came through what might be described as an ‘interesting’ Christmas Season. I am sure we would all agree that many things were not quite what they have been over the years. But in spite of that, the spirit and essence of Christmas remained the same. Love for God, family, and friends makes every Christmas special to me.
I was thinking about some of my Christmases as a child and several stand out. One perhaps a bit more than others. I was nine years old and I wanted a bicycle more than I could say. If you had a bike the world was yours. Anything was possible. The problem is bikes were expensive and you could outgrow a bike in no time at all. I was not even in my teens and so growth from year to year was in spurts and you never knew if it would be an inch or three inches. In 1961 my parents bought me a J.C. Higgins 26” Flightliner Bicycle for Christmas. It was red with white trim and chrome fenders. It was without question, one of the most impressive things I had ever seen. The problem was with the seat in its lowest position, I could not sit on it and reach the peddles. In fact I could barely reach the peddles at all. I would just have to grow into it. Patience has never been one of my virtues and when one of my sisters, who was 8 years older than me, assured me that she would ‘give me a pump’ and ride me around wherever I wanted to go, it was problem solved. So, on Christmas morning we went to the top of the 11th Street Hill and with me on the handlebars and my sister peddling we began our descent. At first, all was well. Life was beautiful with the wind in our faces and sun shining brightly. However, as we came down the hill it became apparent that my sister did not know exactly how the ‘coaster brakes’ were intended to work, and we began to pick up speed quickly. Less than a quarter of the way down the hill the uneven sidewalk was causing both front and rear tires to leave the ground unexpectantly as we rocketed down the hill. Then for no apparent reason the bike began to shimmy and vibrate uncontrollably. My sister, who had an over-grown sense of self-preservation dove off of the bike into a neighbor’s front lawn. Leaving me precariously perched upon the handlebars and moving downward at an ever-increasing rate. After what seemed like an eternity, the biked veered to the right and I was thrown headfirst into a beautiful but thorny rose garden. Surprisingly, there were no bones broken, but there were abrasions, cuts, and scrapes beyond belief. I looked like I had been attacked by a lynx or a bobcat or perhaps even a mountain lion. Bleeding and pushing the bike back to my grandmother’s house I was greeted by shrieks of horror as they saw all of my torn clothes and the blood. After some warm water and soft wash cloths were applied, they determined that I would in fact live. But first they would need to douse me with Methylate and Mercurochrome. (I can’t remember which one, but one of them burned like fire and we were simply told to ‘blow on it’. Definitely injury added to insult.)
I learned some valuable lessons that day. First, never (and I sincerely mean never) let my sister ride, drive, steer, or in anyway control any vehicle I was to be a passenger in. Second, and much more important, in this life, we are given things that we simply must ‘grow into’. God in His wisdom has given each of us gifts and talents that must be developed or mastered. You cannot put someone else in charge of them. Time and your faithful efforts will pay off. God calls each of us and gives us gifts, but we initially may not know what to do or how to use what has been given to us. Romans 11:29 (NIV) says, “God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” Perhaps another way to say that is, “even if you fail at first in what God intends for you, He will not take it away. So, don’t give up. Keep growing and striving.”
As a final thought, I eventually graduated. When I was fifteen, I got a 10-speed bicycle. (It was so cool. No coaster brake and you could pedal backwards, not sure why but I always liked that) However, until I was fifteen I road my Flightliner literally all over town.