I have loved to bike for as long as I can remember. In addition to providing a great form of exercise and a way to get around, biking has also taught me valuable lessons. One lesson in particular has caused me to reflect almost daily on where I am looking and where I am going.
I generally ride my bike on the street; roads are smooth and generally simple to navigate. But shortly after I met my husband, he invited me to ride on a trail with him. I was eager for the new challenge, but it wasn’t long before I realized that biking on a mountain trail is not at all like riding on a smooth road. Mountain trails are narrow with frequent obstructions—rocks, roots, and ruts, to name a few. On that initial trail ride, I kept my eyes focused on each impending obstacle, all the while thinking, “Don’t hit the rock, don’t hit the rock, don’t hit the rock!” It was almost comical that even with such determined focus, I seemed destined to run right into the rock or rut again and again.
After several discouraging mishaps, my future husband gave me some simple advice. He said, “Instead of looking at the obstacle, look where you want to go; the bike will follow.” I chuckled at his advice. It sounded too simple, but since I wasn’t seeing much success from focusing on each obstacle, I decided to give it a try. It wasn’t long before I came to another rock in the trail. Instead of looking at it, I focused hard on the narrow but clear part of the trail to the side of the rock. To my amazement, the bike (with me on it) went right where I wanted it to go! I was amazed when this principle proved to be successful again and again. Needless to say, the rest of the ride was much more enjoyable.
I’ve thought about this principle repeatedly throughout my life. In addition to providing safe passage past physical rocks and other dangers, it has proven to be a sound principle for safely navigating my spiritual journey as well. If I focus my attention on the distractions of the world—fears, comparisons, too much social media, and so on—I find myself spiritually thrown farther away from the destination I thought I was heading toward. However, if I strive to live my life focused on the Savior and following His example, I am strengthened and directed beyond my own abilities.
One of my favorite stories from the scriptures describes Christ walking on water, in the middle of a storm, toward His disciples out on a ship. The disciples were initially afraid, but then Peter recognized the Savior and asked to join Him out on the water. And he did! With a keen focus on the Savior, Peter began to walk on the water toward Christ. But then his focus shifted. He noticed the wind and the waves (the chaos and distraction) crashing around him, and he began to sink. It was not Peter’s ability alone that gave him power to rise above the elements, nor was it the stormy sea or crashing waves that caused him to sink. With his focus squarely on Jesus Christ, Peter defied the laws of nature to accomplish what was otherwise impossible.
I have learned to look where I want to go, because I go where I look. It’s that simple. There will always be obstacles, and they are often frustrating, but I’m learning to look to the Savior as I navigate the challenges that I encounter along life’s path. What does this mean in practical terms? It means spending time daily feasting on the words of Christ, seeking inspiration and direction frequently throughout my day in formal and informal prayer, and then acting on that inspiration. It means fostering a spirit of gratitude each day and spending time in the temple. It means trusting that God is aware of me and instead of asking in frustration, “Why me?” asking in faith, “What do you want me to learn from this challenge?” Focusing my attention on the Savior doesn’t make the obstacles go away, but it does make me stronger as I find the narrow path that will take me safely through.
The end of Peter’s story is also significant, for even as he was sinking, Peter cried out to the Savior, and Jesus immediately stretched forth His hand and caught him. When I lose focus, I try to remember that He is there waiting with outstretched arms for me to return my focus back to Him. He will be patient and steady, ever ready to pull me up and back into His loving arms.