There have been many moments in life when I found myself asking, “What was I thinking?!” or “What have I gotten myself into?” Five minutes into my bike ride on a sunny Saturday morning, and I found myself asking those questions again.
As I encountered the first incline, I began talking to myself, “What were you thinking, Jonah? you know there’s no such thing as a simple bike ride here in Fort Worth; it’s up, down, then back up again…everywhere you go.” I laughed at myself, and despite my already ‘burning thigh muscles’, I pressed on. As I rounded the corner and saw a continual climb up another small incline, I hesitated and for a brief moment found myself thinking, “OK. No. I’m not up for this..” –but thanks to two of my character traits, tenacity and determination, I pressed on convincing myself it would be worth it.
Unfortunately, I can also be impulsive at times, you know…not thinking things through all the way; I had made the choice to NOT wear my glasses, reasoning that I really didn’t need them to ride my bike. During my first decline, I was trying to get used to the brakes and going a little faster than I should have been. My front tire hit something in the road, which I wasn’t able to see clearly without my glasses, and the tire wobbled, the brakes slid, my hands gripped the handlebars tightly, my heart skipped a few beats, and then I realized just how quickly that could have turned out very ugly. Again, I questioned myself, “What was I thinking?! I can’t really see small rocks and other debris as I’m moving quickly down the street! oh well, guess I better be careful!” And, the bike ride continued.
My ‘self-chatter’ slowly turned into talking to God:
“Ok God, I’m second guessing my decision and starting to think that where I’m headed is further than I thought, and I’m wondering what I’ve gotten myself into.” As soon as I heard those words spoken out loud I immediately said, “You know…I feel like that is the underlying theme of my life story, with You always saying to me, “Well, here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into”.”
I laughed at that thought, and then sincerely prayed, “but, here I am so I want to make the most of it. Use this time to teach me something good, speak to my heart whatever I need to hear; give me another ‘life lesson’ please.”
Within a few minutes of silence and consistent pedaling, the lesson began:
“Just relax and enjoy the ride, slow down, don’t try so hard, just remain consistent and enjoy the time that you have.”
hmmm…I began to wonder if that was what He had been trying to teach me with the whole ‘Be still and wait on the Lord’ theme that had been going on…for years! hahaha!
So… I slowed down, relaxed, and found a comfortable pace. I started looking around and enjoying my bike ride. Before I knew it, I had reached my destination and with pleasant surprise I declared, “whatdoyouknow! that wasn’t so bad after all!”
After completing my errand, I returned to my bike and was getting back on when I heard a heavily accented voice from behind me ask, “Vand to trade?” I turned to see an older gentleman walking toward his electrical scooter. I glanced at him, then at his scooter, and then replied with a smile, “No thanks. I need the workout.” He looked at me and responded with a confused look on his face and questioned, “Vy?!” Without hesitation, I shouted back over my shoulder as I rode off…”It’s what keeps me strong!”
A small voice ‘inside my head’ replied, “Exactly!”
As I continued my pedaling, I pondered the meaning of the ‘exactly!’ and my thoughts immediately returned to the confused ‘why?’ that came from the stranger…and it occurred to me that I had been asking God “why?” a lot lately in all of my confusion about life’s little trials, struggles, and disappointments.
There it was, my “ah-ha! moment”.
I had answered my own “whys?” with my response to the confused man-“It’s what keeps me strong!” And God’s response to me was “Exactly!” I wondered if He wanted to add, “you’re FINALLY gettin it!”
Just as muscles don’t gain strength without ‘stress’ being put on them, our faith does not strengthen without being put ‘under pressure’ and ‘tested’ now and then.
I rode on with anticipation of more learning from the best life-teacher ever! I love the way He meets us where we are and speaks to us in a way that we’ll hear him- IF we’re listening.
As I came upon the steepest and most intense part of my return ride, I had a feeling I wouldn’t be able to make it all the way, but I was going to give it my best effort. As I felt my pace slowing and my muscles aching and burning, I decided to recite truths that I knew, “The Lord gives strength to the weary”, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”, “The joy of the Lord is my strength”, etc.. and as I was pushing myself to persevere through my huffing and puffing….this thought came to me:
“It’s okay to get off and walk when you need to, as long as you keep moving; Do what you can do and keep moving toward the goal. Don’t focus on how hard it is; think about how good it’s going to feel when you finally get home knowing you completed what you set out to do. Give yourself grace when you need to, relax, but keep moving forward.”
I stopped, got off my bike and started walking. As I began walking my legs were feeling a bit wobbly as if they were about to give out. However, I felt a sense of accomplishment as I thought about the reward I would receive for pushing myself beyond what I thought I could do. As I reached the top, and the way plateaued, I saw a young, healthy-looking man on the opposite side of the street…walking his bike. Then I heard this,
“It doesn’t matter how ‘strong’ you are, sometimes all you may be able to do is walk.”
I smiled as I thought about the much needed ‘life lessons’ I just received, at ‘just the right time’ from a simple bike ride. I had set out that morning with the purpose to build strength in my body, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy the process at the same time. Likewise, every trial and every struggle can be used by God to strengthen our faith and build our perseverance, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy our ‘journey of faith’ along the way.