Yesterday, my daughter Avi learned to ride a bike.
We'd been practicing for a week. She'd pedal hard, I'd run next to her, my hand firmly gripping the back of her seat. Then I'd let go, still running by her side, Avi having no idea that I'd released her. One second, two, and I'd grab hold again. We continued like this, back and forth across our townhouse cluster parking lot, her older brother Lev occasionally veering into our path on his big-boy bike, reminding us who owns the road.
During these practice sessions, Avi toppled over for one of two reasons. Either she pedaled too slowly to build momentum, her bike wobbling from side to side without direction, or she turned her head, saw I had let go, and eyes wide, lost her balance. Either she held back from the start, unable to build enough power and speed, or, in the midst of ride, she realized the precarious nature of her body flying through space on a two-wheeler and lost her nerve.
As I continue this odd, unexpected adventure of working as an independent rabbi and preparing to open a yoga studio with my wife Sara, I find that I, too, become undone for lack of strength or lack of nerve. Sometimes, I'm holding back. I don't feel ready. I want more time. So I don't pedal hard enough. Then, wobbling, I topple for lack of direction. Other times, I dare to go for it - taking a risk, trying something new, living large. And then, for whatever reason, I look up in the midst of the ride, and notice that no one's holding on. I'm flying through space and nothing is guaranteed. The concrete's a blur below me, but I know that if I fall, when I fall, it will hurt. Dear God, I think, what have I done? In that moment, terrified, that's when I loose my balance.
Yesterday, for whatever reason, Avi was ready. Maybe it was because Sara was outside, too, and Avi had called to her Mom: "Imma, watch me!" Maybe it was because the weather was warm and we were all sweating, smiling, and feeling good. Or maybe it was because the ineffable had once again taken place - the beginner had worked, practiced, feared, fallen, and gotten up enough times to finally, this time, take flight.