In the past couple of years, I have been getting into bicycling. Well, I could say that I am getting back into cycling, but the last time I road consistently was before I had my drivers license. It was a good way to get around our rural area and I even had a subscription to Bicycling Magazine. Because I somewhat had that base of bicycling, my interest in the Tour de France has always been present. Not as high of interest as the World Cup, but still fairly high. This time around, I am learning more about the dynamics of the sport of bicycle road racing as well as just cycling in general. It’s funny to me how my interest in cycling has somewhat mirrored my walk with the Lord. One has given me a healthy life and the other an eternal life. And as I learn more about the Tour, the more I see how we can learn from cyclists on the Tour de France for our walk together in our tour de la vie, or our tour of life.
When I was younger, cycling was a way to go see friends, go to work, or get to soccer practice. Only a couple of times would a friend and I go out for a specific ride without a destination other than returning home. Growing up in the church, it too was also a means for me to be with friends, but I never set out on my own to study the Word or seek the Lord. Both activities, and I call them both activities because that is what they were to me then, just something to do. Neither one was a passion or a driving force in my life. As I grew up, I faded from both. After getting my license, I didn’t need to ride anywhere anymore and almost basically stopped riding all together. When I went away to college, I stopped going to church all together as well.
During my time away from the bike, I did pick up mountain biking here and there, but again, it wasn’t a passion necessarily. During my time away from church, I started searching for what I knew was missing, but didn’t know where to get it. Or maybe I did know where to get it, but because “I was in control,” I wouldn’t go to where I knew I should. There were many different avenues I looked into, but none of them filled the hole that I was wanting to fill. But when God brought me back to Him, it wasn’t the same. I wasn’t the same. I wanted to be more active in my faith and seek out the answers to the questions that caused the hole to begin with. The passion started to build, and it developed quickly. Being in the Word was soon something that drove me everyday. It became a basis for my life and I started looking for ways that God was changing me. I started to see how His Word was true, how it was breathing life into me, and I was relating life to scriptures and its applications more than searching for answers. The answers were there before the questions even came up.
Shortly after moving to California, where I was reunited with my son, brought back to God and met my wife, I joined a pick-up soccer game. With in 5 mins, while I was all by myself crossing the ball, my knee popped and I completed the tear in my left ACL that I had been working on since junior high. For the next few years, I would be walking and all of the sudden, my knee would go out. I would work on it myself to strengthen it and just deal with it. Finally, I had had enough of my knee going out randomly and I started the process of getting my knee fixed. A process that ended up taking over a year and half to do from when I first went to the doctor. While preparing for the surgery and rehab, I remembered how I enjoyed cycling and figured I could use that as part of my rehab. I met a friend who ran a ministry that helped kids get bikes as well as fix the bikes for the local homeless population and he offered to tune up my rode bike. That first year, I only got out a handful of times before we were caught up in the middle of moving to Colorado. My first ride in Colorado, however, was only 4 miles and I was toast. I came home and collapsed on the floor trying to get some oxygen into my lungs and wondering if I would ever be able to ride longer.
Since then, I have been able to ride farther and longer and my lungs are able to get enough oxygen now that I have adjusted to the elevation. Many times our walk with the Lord is the same, we come to Him or back to Him and we are all gung-ho to be our best, but it ends up short lived and we find ourselves collapsed on the floor trying to get spiritual oxygen back into our bodies wondering if we will be able to do this. But God has given us different ways that He will strengthen us in our walk, we just have to get out there and walk in His ways. Here are some ways that God uses different things in our lives to strengthen us.
God puts hills in our path. Leaving on a bike ride from our house means you have to go up. No matter which direction you go, it starts up hill. This is why my first ride was only 4 miles. It would have been less, but the return to home was all downhill. Hills strengthen us and teach us to pace ourselves. If you push to hard in the beginning, you tire out quickly and struggle the rest of the way up. But with each pedal, or with each step, we get stronger. On your way up the hill, you may start to question why you are going up this hill, or if you can even make it. On the bike, it is just a matter of turning the pedals over and over and having enough fuel in the tank. In our walk with God, it only matters on our reliance on God. “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31) In cycling terms, they shall pedal and not bonk.
The best thing about hills though, are what happens after you get to the top. The downhill! Although it is easy to coast downhill, what I have learned is that is a great time to push even more. In the beginning of the year as I started back into commuting to work on my bike, I would coast more down the hills in order to recover from the previous climb. But as the hills strengthened me, I have been able to keep pushing down the hill. My joy is in the speed I get in these moments. In our walk with God, there are times when we don’t have a hill in front of us and it is easy to relax. Maybe we just went through a huge trial and we need this time to recuperate. But I have also found that these are the times when we can press into God even more, coming to Him not in a time of need but just in a time of purely building a relationship. The help you get from God in a time of need is awesome, but in those moments where you can just rest your head on His chest as John did, you gain so much more closeness with God.
On the bike the wind is not my friend, unless it is a tail wind. There is nothing worse than riding into a headwind, especially if it is a gusting wind and there is no consistency whatsoever. One day I was riding to work and I had an unusual, but slight, tailwind. Normally I have a headwind to work and then it changes in the afternoon to give me a headwind on the way home. Cycling in Colorado means headwinds, period. I had arrived in record time and felt great the whole day. I felt strong, confident and was excited for my ride home. My ride home is always stronger (mostly because it is downhill), and the closer it got time to go home, the more excited I got. That all changed in the first 2 miles. I was facing one of the stronger headwinds I have had on my commute. Although I first found myself grumbling about it, I soon started to laugh at myself.
The Holy Spirit provides our spiritual wind. Since He knows what we need in the moment, He gets to choose which direction He moves the wind. On my ride to work that day, the wind encouraged me. It built me up and gave me confidence. Many times the Spirit will give us that needed push and we go through life almost effortlessly. But then, like my ride home, it seems as though the Spirit is moving against us. What I realized on that ride home, and why I started to laugh at myself was, although I felt like I did a great job on the way to work and was encouraged, I still needed strengthening and that is exactly what I got on the way home. I could have grumbled more and more about the headwind, but when my perspective changed to see it as an opportunity to be strengthened, it changed how I rode. I became stronger. When you feel that the Spirit is against you, this is an opportunity that He is taking to strengthen you. (Note: if you are going against the will of God, this does not apply. This takes discernment to know if you are being strengthened or redirected.)
In the Tour de France, there are different teams of cyclists. Usually they are intermixed with the other teams in the big group, called the peloton. There is only one day where each team rides together by themselves in what is called the Team Time Trial. They ride in a single file taking turns in the front and pushing together as a team to reach the finish line in the fast time. It is essentially only their team on the road as each team starts a different times. But during the other days, the team has to ride in a way that deals with not only the course, but all of the other teams as well. Their main focus is to make sure their lead rider is in position towards the end of the stage (the route they ride each day) that he will be able finish first. As you watch, you will see 2 or 3 guys from the same team pushing rally hard towards the end and then the guy in the front of the 2 or 3 will pull over and it seems as if he just gives up. But he has done his job, he has pulled the other two with max effort and then allows the next guy to pull until it is time for the lead rider to break out with as fresh of legs as possible to finish strong.
In our walk, we need fellowship. Fellowship serves a purpose to support each other. Sometimes I may be strong and am able to pull someone else through some tough times. Other times, I need to come in behind someone and let them pull for a time. Then as a group, we can all come together to help the one guy to finish strong. But we each serve a purpose in the walk of others. As a team, we will be able to do more than as individuals. Find your team, take your turns pulling, but also take your turn drafting as well.
The peloton is the large main group of cyclists in a ride. The peloton comes from the French word meaning platoon. Some riders try to breakaway from the peloton to get ahead and some are dropped off of the back because the pace is too fast. But within the peloton, there are 4 main areas to position yourself. The easiest place to be is right in the middle. You get the benefit of riding with the flow and your effort level is not as great as those in front or on their own. But it is also the most dangerous place since it just takes one rider to make a mistake and a huge group could go down. You could ride on the edge and have some of the benefit of the slipstream of the group, but then you are in danger of getting bumped off the road if the group shifts for whatever reason. You could ride at the back of the peloton, getting the full benefit of the slipstream of the group and being able to see crashes with enough time to react, but if you slack on the pace, you could find yourself being dropped by the group. Then there is the front of the group. You may be doing more work causing that slipstream effect for the riders behind you, but you get to see the obstacles and hazards ahead of you.
In your walk, you could go with the flow and be in the group, but without much view of whats coming up, you may crash with the others around you when someone makes a poor choice. You could just be on the edge but then you can easily get distracted with things you pass or you might get bumped off your walk when the group takes an unexpended shift. You could just follow everyone, not having to do any of the work, but then you might get lulled into a dullness and soon find yourself on your own. But if you position yourself out ahead, you will be required to put in the work, but then you will also have the benefit to see what is coming and be able to make necessary adjustments. Along the course of the Tour, they have guides with flags to point out the turns so the riders don’t get lost. If you are out front, you get to see these changes coming. But if you are in the back, and the leaders miss the turn, you will also miss the turn. This always causes confusion and kills any momentum of moving forward. It is always better to be able to see where the Spirit is guiding you than to depend on others to show you.
Each one of us has a path that God will take us on. This path will include hills and wind. Sometimes on this path, we will have fellowship with others and sometimes it will be a solo ride. How is God using a hill or wind to strengthen you, encourage you, or direct you in His will? If we follow Him, He will guide us where we should go, but if we follow others, then we risk the chance of getting lost, caught up in a crash, or dropped. Even then, God will be there to guide us back to His path where He will strengthen us, encourage us and guide us. We just need to get out and ride.