Do you remember the very first time you ever rode a bike all on your own? Do you remember that feeling of excitement mixed with an equal sense of foreboding as you pedalled that first, short, wobbly distance? The excitement was in doing something you had never done before; the foreboding was in the almost certain knowledge that sooner rather than later your sense of balance would desert you and you would fall off your bike. The next frightening moment was when you learned to signal which meant having to take one hand off the handlebars with the further wobbles and the tumbles that that may have involved. But as your technique improved every time you rode your bike you could think back to the bruised and bloodied knees of those early days and know that it had been worth it.
When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his rising from the dead, they were overjoyed to see him and yet they couldn’t help noticing that he still carried the wounds he suffered at his crucifixion. They saw the marks of the nails in his hands and spear in his side and most of them would have remembered how they had abandoned him at the time when he needed them most. But he did not blame or scold them, he wished them peace. What was done was done and he wanted them to have peace of mind and concentrate on the future. His wounds would remain an eternal sign of the cost of love and a lesson they’d learn for themselves in time.
From the moment we were born, life has been a constant learning process. Over the years we have all had opportunities to learn new skills. When we attempt something that is unfamiliar or complicated we have to make allowances for the mistakes we shall make in the process. If we are seriously committed to what we have begun, we may have to allow ourselves some extra time and patience until, gradually, we are able to move forwards from ‘beginner’ to ‘proficient’ and maybe even to ‘expert’ status.
The strange thing is that we do not always make allowances for ourselves or for others as we learn the biggest and most important lesson that will ever challenge us: how to live as a fallible human being in a world that is itself far from perfect. We have a lifelong path of discovery to take if we are to be rewarded with a quality of goodness at the heart of us. Everybody stumbles and falls on the way, so it is important that we shouldn’t feel discouraged and give up altogether.
God knows that we are learners in life. He sees the ‘L’ plates which are invisible to us and to others. He still loves us when we fall far short of perfection and asks just one thing of us: that we ‘dust ourselves off and try again’. At Pentecost Jesus again tells us to be at peace, however battered and bruised we may feel. We are still learning to be like him and God makes allowances for that by sending us the Spirit of love and encouragement to help us make a fresh start at all those times when that is just what we need.