bikeSelf-Care Sundays

For the next eight months, I’ll continue the MAPS theme from my Write 31 Days Challenge. I strongly feel that in our self-indulgent culture, we often lose sight of the difference between nurturing ourselves and indulging ourselves. Occasional indulgence won’t hurt anyone, but a steady diet of indulgence that overlooks actual self-care can leave us feeling empty and confused.

The acronym MAPS stands for Mental, Academic/Artistic, Physical and Spiritual-the four areas of our lives that we need to nurture in order to feel whole.

We lose sight of the difference between nurturing ourselves and indulging ourselves. #selfcare #IMM #wholeness Click To Tweet

This Sunday’s theme? Spiritual Wholeness.

Only the Fast Kids

“May I go on the mountain bike ride this Sunday?” Tony asked.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Tony. Didn’t you just learn how to ride a bike last spring?”

“Yeah.” He hung his head a little bit. “Maybe I shouldn’t go.”

“You probably need more experience before you tackle a black-diamond mountain bike trail.”

“Ok. Maybe I could borrow a bike some Sunday and practice around campus?”

“Absolutely!” I made a mental note to ask Pedro about lending Tony a bicycle. I felt badly about having to say no. But Pedro and I had planned a ride for the more adventurous—and skilled students.

Sometimes, we take a variety of ability levels when we take students mountain biking—and we choose easier trails. Due to time constraints, we had asked that only kids who knew what they were doing sign up…or so we thought.

Once we arrived at the trail head, we quickly unloaded the bicycles and gathered the eight boys around for last-minute instructions. Despite the date (late January) and elevation (7000 feet), the day felt balmy. Pedro had a chest cold, so he offered to ride at the back of the pack and let me take the lead.

Generally, I play the role of sweeper—I make sure no one gets lost or too far from an adult. I hang out at the back and have a leisurely ride with no competition. Sometimes, I get stuck with a whiny student who tries my patience. Mostly, though, I exercise my intentional cheerleading muscles.

Glimmers of Trouble

“Let’s go, boys!” I called as I stepped on the pedals to lock my shoes. When I raced down the trail, I glanced over my shoulder once to make sure everyone followed. I noticed Sammy, a new student, wobble a bit as he went through the first dip, but I pushed worry aside as we flew down the trail.

After five minutes, I stopped for an equipment check. It turns out Pedro had a flat tire. “Go on ahead,” he urged. “I’ll catch up.”

Fifteen minutes later we came to a fork in the trail and I stopped again. “Why did I stop?” I asked the first boy to catch up to me.

“Cause you’re tired?”

“Naw,” a second boy pulled up and heard my question and the response. “She stopped because the trail splits. We’re supposed to always stop at decision points.”

I nodded in affirmation. “That’s right. ALWAYS stop at decision points and wait for the rest of the group. That way we don’t lose anyone.” After five minutes, we saw Sammy riding down the hill.

“Go, Sammy!” another boy called out.

I felt a moment of pride that the boys took time to encourage a slower member. And then I worried a bit at Sammy’s unsteady bike handling skills. About that time, Pedro slid to a halt at the back of the line, nodded to me, and I took off again.

Staying Ahead of the Pack

For the next hour I bounced up and down hills (a full-suspension bike makes this easy on my old bones). As I stood on the pedals and powered my way up hills, I felt good about the weight-training exercises I’d started a month ago. My bike-handling skills had improved along with my upper-body strength.

Pride crept into the corners of my mouth, and I congratulated myself on staying ahead of a pack of teenage boys. The further we went on the trail, the longer we had to wait for Pedro and Sammy, though.

At mile seven, we started a steep ascent that lasted for over a mile. Instead of stopping every mile or so, I had to stop every quarter-mile to suck in deep breaths of air. After cresting the hill, I waited 15 minutes for all but Sammy and Pedro to arrive.

“Poor Sammy,” I heard one of the boys say, “he can barely push his bike up the hill!”

“Yeah, I guess he wasn’t ready for this ride,” another answered.

“It’s only his second time riding a bike,”

“WHAT?!” I exclaimed. “Sammy’s only ridden once before?”

“Yeah. He learned how to ride two years ago and he hasn’t gone since.” All seven boys nodded in wide-eyed innocence. “I guess we shouldn’t have told him to sign up for mountain biking.”

“Yeah. We thought he’d really like it, though, because he likes other stuff that we do.”

Right about then Pedro texted me to let me know their location. I waited another ten minutes and then sent the rest of the boys on ahead.

While I Waitedbike

When Pedro finally arrived 30 minutes later, I offered to hang out with Sammy so that Pedro could catch up to the other boys. They could get a head start on loading the trailer. By this time, we’d been on the trail for over two hours—much longer than we’d anticipated. With just over two miles left to go on the ride, I gave an encouraging grin to Sammy and we set off.

After ten feet, Sammy almost fell going through a simple dip. He got off the bike and started pushing it. Knowing what I now knew, I didn’t blame him. It had taken me YEARS to feel comfortable riding on this kind of rocky terrain.

For the next 45 minutes I had a lot of time to think. Mostly I thought about how this experience provided the perfect analogy for Christianity. All too often when we hear that someone shares the Christian faith with us, we assume. We assume that they have the same experience and general ability that we do.

If we love meaty, in-depth Bible studies and discussions about the finer points of theology, we figure that our new friends would like them too. Unfortunately, we might turn them off of Bible studies for life.

Maybe we’ve progressed in our relationship with Jesus to the point where we know for certain that God wants us to give up drinking. And so we assume that every other person who calls themselves a Christian should give up drinking, too. Maybe we secretly judge them if they have an occasional glass of wine.

Bike Paths vs. Mountain Bike Trails

Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. Hebrews 5:13

The Bible calls it ‘milk,’ but you could just as easily substitute ‘beginning biker.’ Pedro and I failed to find out the ability level of one of our riders. We assumed that because he had signed up and because he played on the basketball team, that he would have a reasonably enjoyable experience.

He didn’t. Each step of the last two miles looked painful. His skater shoes might have worked fine on a bicycle, but they provided no support whilst walking on the rocky, uneven bike path. When the trail crossed patches of snow, Sammy looked even more miserable as he slipped and lost his balance.

I encouraged him, and tried a few conversational gambits, but I started to worry that I’d have to somehow carry him the rest of the way. He came close to hitting the wall—that point where the body has used up all its stores of energy and movement becomes almost impossible.

Our failure to properly vet our riders equaled feeding a baby steak.

How often do we as church members try to feed babies steak? Does your church offer a variety of experiences that will nourish everyone from babies to mature Christians?  Do we use plain English, or do we speak Christenese? Have we urged babies to read texts on exegesis and then looked down our noses when they don’t understand?

How often do we as church members try to feed baby Christians steak instead of milk? #Christianity Click To Tweet

And worst of all, how many times do we secretly judge someone else because their skills don’t equal ours? I confess I’ve felt all Judgy McJudgerton about little non-salvation issues such as jewelry, make up, eating habits, viewing habits, or even Bible translations.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think we should refrain from hanging out with beginning bikers. We just need to form relationships and find out information before suggesting a path.

Q4U: Have you ever gotten in the way of someone else’s Christian walk by imposing your own standards or expectations?

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  1. My Sunday School class and I were having a very similar discussion today in the context of Billy Graham’s passing and the way evangelism has changed since the days of “the crusade.” In this post-post-Christian culture, we can’t just walk up to someone, ask them if they’ve thought about where they’ll go after they die, and then spout the 4 spiritual laws. Sadly, most people are just not ready or willing to interact with strangers on this level.
    Good thoughts here, Anita, to remind us that not everyone is coming to “the trail” with the same readiness.
    Michele Morin recently posted…Drawing Out a Handful of LightMy Profile

  2. Dear Anita, this is what I needed today! Because our small faith-based school is shifting to classical education next year, all of the teachers have to interview with a panel of priests, starting today. No intimidation there. While I’ve never been able to bike, your analogy struck home and put things a little more into perspective. Your prayers for all stakeholders would be greatly appreciated. Thanks and blessings for sharing a place to grab a cloak of comfort!

  3. Anita, there is much wisdom in this post. While the gospel is for all, may we remember God comes to us individually and personally. And may we do the same – interacting with others right where they are. Timely reminder!
    Joanne Viola recently posted…Dreaming With GodMy Profile

  4. This post ministered to me in so many ways. I appreciated the practical lessons. More than that, though, I appreciated reading words of another writer who draws connections between life outside and the everyday life of faith. Thanks!

  5. It’s always a good idea to check and test your bike before going out, ensure you have the necessary safety equipment and tools to fix a flat.

  6. What a story Anita, well it sounds like you’ve handled that situation well and did all you could do to make everyone feel better. Having the right bike and having experience is definitely a must for such rides. How about having some different levels of trails where everyone can get involved and have fun?

  7. I appreciated the practical lessons.Having the right bike and having experience is definitely a must for such rides. Agreed and thank you.

  8. We love riding bikes when we travel in Europe especially, It’s such a great way to get around and sometimes makes it far easier to be able to pull up a bike instead of our huge motorhome.

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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