July 18, 2021
It is amazing how all of life intersects. Though the intersections may catch us by surprise, they always can teach us the most transformative lessons if we will just pay attention.
For example, I have learned a lot of life lessons over the years through things as simple as jogging and cycling.
I used to jog. Talk about lessons learned! Lessons such as:
- putting on my shoes and committing to the run whether I felt like it or not – the body will follow where the ‘spirit’ leads.
- looking directly at what was ahead of me when running hills, and not at the summit itself, so that I wouldn’t get discouraged,
- always striving for faster times and longer distances rather than being content with what I did on previous runs.
Commit and go!
Then my knees rebelled and I thought: I’m worn out. I need a break!
My ‘break’ became a lifestyle which lasted for 20 years!
The consequence? Complacency and atrophy of body…but…so what! I can still wear the racing T-shirts and talk about ‘the good old days,’ right? It’s just that jogging’s no longer my thing, I’m done!…….
Then, my children gave me a bicycle…..it became a nice garage ornament…. nothing more than a sign of unused, untapped potential.
Even so, each time I was appointed to a new church, the bike moved with me. Those ‘church moves’ were about all of the open road that bicycle ever saw! Its presence, however, made me appear to care about fitness. As the old saying goes, appearances can be deceiving!
Then things changed.
During the months of pandemic isolation, I don’t know what came over me, but I retrieved the bicycle from the cobwebs, got it serviced, and hit the road. It was great!
As I cycled I realized that lessons learned while jogging also applied to cycling! What empowerment – I’ve got this!
Soon, however, I also realized that I couldn’t achieve my distance and endurance goals on my three-speed town bike. It wasn’t intended for long distances. Its heavy frame made it less responsive when navigating potholes. The spokes were thin and frequently broke. The tires were too thick to easily traverse stretches of sand.
It was time to up my game.
So…I bought a bike more suited to my goals. More gears. A lighter frame. Thinner wheels. Sturdier spokes. What a difference!
The paths are still challenging, the hills still high, but I am committed to going and have learned some more lessons along the way:
- If I get tired while riding up a hill, I know that, while I coast down the other side, I can rest and stretch my legs on the pedals in preparation for the next hill
- If I hit sand patches, I should glide, not pedal, to the other side
- If there are potholes ahead, I need to plan a work around
As with jogging, commitment is key and going is essential!
But so what?!?
Ah, as I said at the beginning: all of life intersect if we are paying attention and life lessons are EVERYWHERE!
So here’s my take on what I’m learning – and it’s more than about cycling!
The world is an overwhelming mess right now. Isn’t that a no-brainer of a statement!!
So many members of the global community have committed to working to make the world a better place in which all of us might live, but it’s exhausting and overwhelming work.
There are so many challenging needs and catastrophes to ameliorate, so much injustice and chaos to address, that it is hard to remember to focus on the situation right in front of us because the mountain of need looms large and it is so discouraging! Why work so hard to climb the mountains of injustice and hatred if there’ll still be more mountains to climb?
What if we just appropriate the vocabulary and the mindset of God’s people – just look the part; no need to live it for heaven’s sake! We tried our best in the past – we’re done!
Compassionate fatigue sets in. The overwhelming challenges of life make us numb, complacency becomes a lifestyle, and our commitment to go forward as God’s change agents in this messy world atrophies. .
But, during these past challenging months, something has stirred within us.
As COVID-19 encompassed the globe, the consequences of our atrophic break with our purpose has become starkly apparent in challenges impossible to ignore:
- Egocentric rather than Christocentric religion
- Economic inequities
- Global warming
- Supremist ideologies
We’re realizing that our past ways of dealing with these challenges are limited and no longer work – if they ever did. It’s time to up our game!
It’s time to not only relearn God’s life lessons and recommit to God’s purpose for humankind (to love God and all others, even as we care for all creation without exception) but we must develop new strategies to get it done!
What lessons and strategies? Well, to continue the cycling analogy:
- the empowerment of the divine gears of unconditional love
- a fearless heart for reconciliation which are the thinner tires of mobility – the lighter frame of repentance and forgiveness that allow us to move forward together working around societal pitfalls and sand patches
- the recalibration of societal and cultural mindsets in order to climb the hills together for the common good
- the development of creative work arounds to overcome the potholes and sand patches of worldly power – both secular and religious – that threaten to derail us from our purpose
- and ALWAYS focus first on the challenges God puts right in front of us
The hills may often seem insurmountable, the looming sand patches and potholes impossible to get through, but as we focus on the challenges in front of us – and commit to moving forward, never back – we will increase in strength and knowledge – and impact the world with the love of God and for the good of all.
But there will still be times when we all grow tired and need to coast a bit. In those times, we have the opportunity to make space for each other to rest and renew, but just for a while, because even in the resting times we can never quit or do less than our best.
It’s time to up our game. Genesis 1:26, 2:15, Mark 12:31
As long as we are breathing, we have purpose. Jeremiah 29:11.
There is no room for spiritual atrophy in our lives – no room for compassion fatigue – no room!
Christ Himself has encouraged us to commit and go! Matthew 28:18-19.
Each hilltop we conquer, each sand pit we traverse, each pothole we circumvent, is a time for celebration – for all things are possible for those called and committed to God’s purposes! Matthew 19:26.
It’s time to commit and go! All to the Glory of God! AMEN.