I remember vividly trying to teach each of my girls to ride a bike. Initially, it began on the toddler bike with training wheels. The family could go on a walk, and they would pedal hard and join the fun with little to no work or skill. But the day finally came when the training wheels came off, and we really learned to ride. There were tears as I worked to reassure them that they were capable of doing what they tearfully insisted they could not. There were scrapes from falls.
But do you recall the joy when they finally did it? There was that moment when you told them they were doing it, but they didn’t yet realize it. When it finally registered they were riding on their own and had left you several yards away, the timid face turned to exhilaration as they swelled with self-pride; at least until they needed to stop, and I realized I hadn’t taught them well enough how to brake.
Those memories are real and special. Now let’s use our imagination and transfer that experience into a way to capture what Paul is teaching us in Galatians 4:8-11. Imagine a few years had passed. Numerous family bike rides have happened, and maybe even a ramp or two have been conquered. You come home from work one day to discover your child has reinstalled the training wheels and is relying on its stability to ride. Perhaps their fear or insecurity has motivated them to build a crutch that they feel holds them up.
This regression is essentially what Paul is describing in the faith of Galatia. They had known and walked in faith and transformation, yet now are building systems based on the abolished Law in order to earn God’s favor. This doesn’t work. It is like going back to the ABCs, reinstalling the training wheels, or asking for a babysitter to come and watch your twenty-year-old. It makes no sense and is not needed.
We are called to walk by faith that listens to God and does what He says. Granted, this is sometimes fearful and even nebulous as we work to discern what He wants or is saying. Those are times to trust and listen more intently and not times to go back to relying on rules.
You and I quickly recognize when adults act like kids. They forsake mature ways of handling conflict, communication, etc. While we are quick to see this in others, we may miss it in terms of faith practice. Consider today the attitude of resting in who God is, who He has called you to be, and live out your faith in response to that reality.
This is an easy trap to fall into. Let me explain it this way. A believer should read the Bible regularly. I would even say every day. The action is reading the Bible. To live according to the Law would approach reading the Bible as a checklist that must be done in order to earn God’s love and favor. When I don’t read my Bible, I feel guilty and beat myself up. Being able to check off the box of religious conduct makes me feel like I’m doing good and more likely to be accepted.
Comparatively, I rest in God knowing me and desire to know Him more. Realizing that the Bible is the most detailed description of who He is, how He works, and what He desires, I read the Bible every day to discover more of His love. Like my spouse, I desire to know Him more and want to spend time with Him, so I use the resource He has provided that is a living and active source of the Holy Spirit.
Do you see the difference? My actions are the same, but my perspective and motivation are different. That is an example of what Paul is striving for the Galatian church to see and also how easy it is for us to fall into the performance trap. Assess today your motivation and work to start from a place of desire and relationship. This means if you fail today, you are not forsaken and worthless. He is forgiving and wants you to continue coming to him. Don’t reinstall the training wheels but instead, look for the adventure of navigating the unknown trails by faith.