Last week I bought my first very own bicycle. It’s a white beach cruiser, complete with matching white basket. I’d dreamt of early morning rides along the beach bike path, stopping off for breakfast at Scotty’s in Hermosa or somewhere. Or riding to a local farmer’s market and filling by basket with fresh, local produce. There’s one little hiccup though; the riding bit. I’m still actually learning how to ride a bike. It’s been a long journey, but even as life gets away from you sometimes, certain dreams won’t leave you alone.
So I’m in the park and I’m ready to ride. Sort of. It took about 3 seconds to realize my biggest challenge to my goal was not my balance, navigating my gears, or the local uneven streets. It was was learning how to learn. I rediscovered that whilst I love gathering information, discovering new things, stretching my intellect and dreaming, learning is far more encompassing, far more incarnational, and dare I say it, at times far less attractive.
Learning how to learn was hard because I’ve generally relied on natural talents and preferences. I didn’t learn how to sing; I didn’t learn how to run fast, throw or catch a ball, and reading and writing came to me early and easily.Learning was about building on my strengths. So even when it was difficult, it felt like a worthwhile investment that made me even stronger.
But my talents and my perspective couldn’t help me this time. It was humbling. The quite literal twists and turns (and wobbles!) on the bike left me exposed. I wanted to go to the park at the crack of dawn or at the end of dusk, because I didn’t want people to see me…like this. I felt angry that I’d never learned earlier, and rued the futility of having no one to blame. I felt scared, scared of failing and giving up, but scared of falling and getting bruised and bloody. Maybe I’d go out on the bike another day. Perhaps I’d go for a run ( read – something I feel very competent at) instead. I felt ashamed of my awkward incompetence.
Perhaps to rescue my rapidly spiraling confidence, I started thinking how much this reminded me of the process of discipleship. The idea of being mentored/coached – discipled sounds great, a beautiful and shiny pathway to our dream of becoming better people, suitable spouses, more effective leaders, greater influencers! But we rapidly discover that discipleship is not merely about gathering information and building upon our strengths. It’s incarnational. Its an apprenticeship that sometimes leaves you feeling utterly exposed. You learn things you thought you already knew but don’t; you get frustrated because you paid $1000′s for an education that seems to have ill equipped you for leading people You feel like the strengths that brought you here are utterly inadequate to get you to where you’re called to be. You hope no one sees you. They’d only discover that you’re the person you’re most afraid you are.
It might be a really powerful word, but sometimes discipleship feels awful, because it exposes the truth that you are weak.
But then that’s also the beauty of learning, really learning. Discipleship doesn’t expect you to just know things; it assumes that you are a life long apprentice, an incarnational learner. Discipleship isn’t only interested in information gathering; an apprentice needs an accessible example to observe, experience and imitate, in order to really learn. Discipleship can feel weak and out of your depth – just look at the disciples. But the impact of being discipled and in doing so learning how to multiply that process. Well, just look at the disciples.
So as I cycle awkwardly around the park, I realise that my bruised ego needs times like these. Times like these remind me that I am a disciple, a learner, an apprentice. I’m learning from Him, and from the key people He’s placed in my life as disciplers. I may be weak and awkward sometimes, but I’m also growing in Him every day.