With thanks to YouTube, Lidl car park, and a bit of consistency, I’ve successfully learned how to roller skate this year. Going backwards and spinning is a work in progress, and I can turn right with far greater ease than turning left, but I am nevertheless slowly gaining in confidence.
In undertaking this process I’ve discovered that the process of learning to roller-skate has paralleled my experience of living out my faith. (Obviously) I undertook a cursory Google search for “a theology of roller-skating” to see if this set of revelations was well-established… and finding only a paltry reference to one roller-skating vicar, I decided a write-up of the parallels was in order.
1) Movement is a necessity
One of the major barriers I experienced in starting to learn was feeling vastly self-conscious about being a full-sized adult precariously towering above eight neon plastic wheels. My knees, sensing imminent peril, kept locking straight in an attempt to exert some control, thereby undermining my ability to assume a posture actually conducive to skating.
Just as eight neon plastic wheels are enough to throw anyone off balance, so is a belief in the literal resurrection of the dead and the potency of prayer – to leave everything else aside (!) It’s understandable that impulse, in determining the probable destination of wheels and prayer risky, will intervene to try and keep you static.
The gospel is full of imperatives to “Go!”. Just as the Book of James says, faith without action [read: movement] is dead. We may think that being static is to find safety, but roller-skating and faith will teach you otherwise.
2) Discomfort is a non-negotiable
At the moment I cannot understand why I only have to think about turning right to make it happen, while thinking about turning left is completely ineffectual – since my feet suddenly root themselves to the floor in terror.
To overcome these instincts, I have to repeatedly try turning left and face repeated encounters with my failure to turn left in actual fact!
In the face of such difficulty, it is easiest to give into staying still again or doing something else. But the only way to get better is to face what causes discomfort.
There’s a famous quote in Christian circles penned by G.K. Chesterton which says the following: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried”.
3) Consistency not intensity is the better choice
Getting better at roller-skating happens with consistent practice, just as a life of faith is formed of a consistent faithfulness.
You cannot muster zeal in fitful bursts and installments, just as you cannot decide on which morning it is exactly that you’ll spin on your roller skates with total fluency.
It’s enough for me to show up to Lidl car park and put my skates on each week to see change over the long haul. Some of the change happens in the moment I decide to leave the house rather than anything else. Likewise, living my faith sometimes means decisions on time and money and attention which go ahead of actually wanting to make those choices – but consistency is its own formation.
4) Self-forgetfulness makes it all easier
The best times I have roller-skating are those where I get lost in the process and don’t think too much about whether I’m improving or if I’m any good. Part of what was difficult at the beginning was not allowing myself to become embarrassed about the people passing by viewing my unsteady attempts.
Controlling the narrative in my mind is a discipline, especially where I am outside of my comfort zone in the learning process. I realise that it’s a form of pride to be overly self-absorbed, whereas not only is a good dose of self-forgetfulness freeing, it is also part of discovering humility.
Humility feels like a bit of an ostracised word, but it turns out it is a big part of both faith (“Be completely humble!” Ephesians 4:2) and rollerskating!
5) Do it for reasons of love
Faith and roller-skating by obligation will immediately rob joy from both, as will a fixation on end results. The only viable path is that provided by wanting to find out where both will take you, believing it worthwhile regardless of where you end up.