Destin Sandlin is a rocket scientist but I came across him struggling to ride a bike. (You may have seen him in one of his YouTube videos as well.) Like most of us, he had learned to ride perfectly well when he was young. It’s something you don’t forget, and he was as good at it as anyone.
There was a twist to his ride, though. He thought it would be easy to overcome. The bike had been adjusted so that turning the handlebars to the left actually turned the bike right (and vice versa.) Destin got on believing that he could mentally correct for that. He couldn’t do it. Not for six months.
Neither could anyone else who thought it would be possible to master quickly. Their minds just didn’t adjust. One after another, volunteers got on the bike and pushed off confidently. Each time, they began to wobble immediately, almost fall–and they had to stop. Again and again. It was striking to watch. They knew what was going on but as Destin said, knowledge did not equal understanding.
It took Destin six months of practicing, struggling, and re-learning before he was able to really integrate the new way of functioning and ride the bike.
Pentecost is a season for noticing how the Spirit sweeps in and through and beyond us in ways that often change us. We’ve taken note that the Celtic image of the Holy Spirit is of a wild goose – something that can’t be controlled or directed. A presence that pushes us into new territory.
Thinking about this, I was reminded of Destin. And of how hard it is to set aside established patterns. Our brains and muscles get deeply accustomed to familiar ways of doing things. We can scarcely grasp and often resist new ways. To carve new channels of behavior or being is no small thing. It takes a lot of wobbling and falling!
Yet we believe in the presence of the Holy Spirit with us – one who is, in the words of the book of Revelation, “making all things new!” Who can transform knowledge to true spiritual understanding. Who disrupts in order to ground more deeply, and who brings us to awareness of our connections beyond the bounds we’ve normally observed.
So, wherever we’re facing change–as individuals, in the church, in our world–maybe one key is to keep practicing new ways. The wild goose will nudge us forward. And with time, a new pattern–perhaps closer to what we were meant to be, but at least evidence of possibility–will emerge!