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.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 Waited
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?
Inspire Me Monday Instructions
What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:
1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!
2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.
3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!
A bonus for you!
Subscribe to receive weekly reminders about the Inspire Me Monday Link up, and I'll send you Ten Quick Ways to Make Your Blog Better.