As we get older, life becomes more about being safe than having guts. Our needs change and what we really want to be gets put on the back burner. But deep down inside we still have a longing to do what we are called to do. The problem is that we are afraid to launch. No guts, no glory.
When I was a child, there were no limits to what my brothers and I would do. Our backyard was our playground, our kingdom. We were adventurers and we didn’t need a lot of material things to launch a dream. Boys that grew up in my era really only needed three items to launch. Their trusty steed, a hill and a creek.
My trusty steed evolved over the years but my first and favorite was the Big Wheel, that plastic trike that was virtually indestructible. The Big wheel was built for speed and destruction. Like a well known watch, it could take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’.
My Big Wheel was blue, red and yellow. The scuff marks on the sides represented memories of one on one battles to see who was the fastest and most daring. Like WWII fighter planes that displayed victory tallies, our scuffs were reminders of triumph. Although our battles were never about life and death, they usually involved creeks and death defying stunts.
Only the bravest in our neighborhood would attempt to jump the creek with the Big Wheel. But the few that did just needed an old cinder block and a sheet of warped ply wood that the old man threw out. And of course a steep hill to launch off of.
Luckily for us, the steepest hill in the neighborhood was directly perpendicular to the creek. It was actually our neighbors drive way but to us it was Mount Everest. From the top of the drive way we could see the entire neighborhood. From that altitude, the creek looked less like the Amazon river and more like a gentle stream.
When the ramp was lined up and tested for structural integrity (which consisted of jumping up and down on it), we would lead our steeds to the top and get in place. There were no test runs. It was fly or swim.
We would line our Big wheels up and try to calm the nerves inside. Focus wasn’t the issue. It was fear. It was the fear of crashing along the way. We were never afraid to launch. Our peers waited to see if we could walk the talk and we were happy to prove that we could.
To add more pressure, the neighborhood girls often gathered in groups to see the action. There was no turning back when they showed up. Our manhood was on the line. Hold tight to the handle bars. Deep breath. Turn the pedals. The crowd below waited in hushed anticipation.
The wind whistled as we made our decent. It’s pitch would get higher and higher. The plastic wheels had no traction, slipping and sliding on the asphalt driveway. Trying to steer was futile. Speed and trajectory were key. We would use our feet to control both.
When we hit the ramp, it was fight or flight. Do we stay with our steed or bail? It was an instinctive reaction to jump off while in mid air and most did. But the true daredevils stayed with it. It’s you and your trusty steed until the end.
While in the air you see a lot of things. The creek below. The smiles on your friends faces. The terrified looks on the girls faces. While soaring over the chasm, our short lives flashed before our eyes.
Glory and fame waited on the other side. For those who make it, you became a hero, a legend. But to my recollection, no one did. Instead of safely making it across, we usually found ourselves waist deep in the creek or broken and bruised among the rocks on the bank. There was rarely a heroes welcome.
Chunks of Big Wheel were scattered among the rocks after many a summer of failed attempts. Like a boneyard, we would find a cracked wheel here and a bent pedal there. The carnage was real. So was the joy.
Even though we never made it across the creek, we still celebrated. Because we tried. We had the guts to launch.
Shouldn’t we have this childlike courage as adults? Are you ready to launch?
Take a deep breath. Hold on tight. Turn the pedal.
No guts, no glory.