A few weeks ago a buddy and I went out for a bike ride in the hills south of our homes. It was a fairly technical six mile loop through cactus and rock, over sandy riverbeds, and up some gravely inclines. I began the ride with visions of pedalling victoriously up to the peak and gazing out across the valley with a sense of accomplishment and pride. I used to go on rides like this all the time when I was younger… surely it would all come back to me quickly.
A few minutes of burning thighs and several mouthfuls of dust into the ride quickly lowered my expectation to that of merely surviving the trip. It had been years since I had attempted anything as physical as this ride, and every crank of the pedal drove home how young I no longer am. By the time we were midway up the second major incline my arms and legs were burning, I was out of breath and I was doubled over my handlebars desperate for some type of boost or second wind. I looked around at the desert wilderness that enveloped us: cholla cactus, saguaro, wild grass concealing desert rodents and insects, loose rocks and drop-offs, and the silence of the hills was only penetrated by the exaggerated pounding of my heart as I struggled to catch my breath. We pushed forward… every so often we would stop and try to regroup and curse our path. We came to what we thought would be the halfway point as we encountered more downhill path than up. We began to laugh at how ridiculously we had been behaving about the previous obstacles and congratulated ourselves on making it through. We proclaimed our manliness and vowed to conquer the trail with ease the next time out… and then we came to the big hill.
This section of the trail was not so much an incline as it was an instrument of torture designed to crush a rider’s sense of accomplishment and capability. We somehow managed to push ourselves over the first couple of summits, but each time we would come to the top of a section, the trail would hairpin and climb again, or it would drop down into a sandy riverbed and then climb sharply to a point and gradually wind further upward. Each time we thought we had arrived at our stopping point or pinnacle, the trail moved onward and upward. We were physically and mentally spent. We had put ourselves down this path and we could not continue on the way we planned. From where we stood, we could see the parking area off in the distance. The terrain prevented us from giving up and setting off in that direction, and we had come too far to merely turn around. Besides that, the road back did not seem any easier than what we hoped would be the short distance ahead. I could not pedal forward; I had no strength. I could not rest on the trail because it was barely wide enough for us to ride through and it was beset by cactus. I leaned against my bike for support. I quickly started drawing parallels between that hopeless place on the trail and times in my life when I put myself in situations that I needn’t have. It seems I never have trouble riding myself off into some desperate situation and end up crying out for some intervention. As I straddled my bike and waddled myself the rest of the way up the hill, I began to recall 2 Corinthians 12:9 – “My Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I pondered on this verse as I approached what was ultimately the crest of longest incline. I had definitely been in a place of personal and spiritual weakness and He was taking this opportunity to show me He was there waiting and ready to help me.
The path widened, and it would be mainly downhill from this point. A few other riders passed through casually and waved as did a woman on horseback. Families hiked down below. We had not traversed some impassible stretch of trail. Our lives were not in peril. But, there was wisdom on that trail that afternoon. There are so many times in life that I want to shine or be the focal point… and I have to try to be mindful that His light through me shines brightest. He is my strength, and with that nothing is impossible or hopeless. His Grace is sufficient… and as I continue to relearn to rely on that and lean on His unwavering strength I will know not to doubt or worry.
This is a difficult lesson to embrace as a father… I want to appear strong and in control as a parent so I struggle with this at times. I have to keep in mind what I am modeling for my sons so they can gain comfort in leaning on His strength as they grow into men… not only when times are difficult but in all things at all times.
Thanks for coming along for the ride… Kiss your kids!