Sunday, March 27, 2011

On Yer Bike!

This morning while eating my breakfast I caught the tale end of TV programme where a 53 year old musician was challenged to participate in a cycle race in America. It was something he always wanted to do and now he had the chance.

The point at which I joined the programme the narrator was explaining the dangers of the race. It wasn’t about doing a million laps around a velodrome circuit, but a route that took in over a thousand miles of normal US highway. Apparently one could get knocked over by a huge truck that came up from behind.

The RAF team consisted of four riders. I’m not sure if they each did just a part of the route or they did the whole route together. The musician was part of a cycling club, so it wasn’t like learning from scratch how to ride a bike, but his cycling club were perhaps not so driven as the RAF folk. They wanted to win – as did the musician – but it was apparent that he wasn’t anywhere up to their level and there was a man waiting for a call to step in at the last moment who would “bite your arm off” for the chance to be in the race.

A lot of the film footage was men on bikes going up hill or down hill or along canal paths – lots of bikes. There was also a lot of interview footage commenting on the progress of the musician. Certain phrases were repeated about his motivation, ambition and desire – mostly not in the positive. He had done one time trial of how many minutes it took him to ride a certain distance and he was slower than the other three riders who were probably half his age and couldn’t play a musical instrument between them. He was required to come back in six weeks and do the trial again to see if he had improved or not. He had improved a little bit but not a lot – but they took him on because he showed promise.

Once they got out to America and started training to get used to the heat it became apparent that he wasn’t coping with the heat, or the hills or the pressure of knowing that he was slowing the team down and there was a man willing to bite off his arm to take his place.

The rest of the team put in extra hours to help with training and motivation. While they were with him shouting instructions and bullying him onwards, he was fine, but left on his own, he would just put in his 100% where they were looking for 150%.

One thing that struck me was the level of their commitment – they lived and breathed the race. They pushed themselves to the edge of injury. They were focussed on the route, the uphills and downhills and adjusted their life accordingly. Every aspect of their being served the race. The musician wasn’t at that place. He didn’t want to push himself to the edge of injury.

I was thinking of Paul’s comparison of the Christian life being like a race. I am not sure that he had bikes in mind and open roads with trucks coming up behind you. He did make the same kind of points about motivation, perseverance and training. I find that I am not one of the three RAF men on the team – I know people who are like that. I am much more like the musician. I don’t want to push myself to the edge of injury. I want to be like the three RAF men but I also want to play safe – two incompatible standpoints. I know that I AM safe because I am in God’s hands throughout, but I also want to FEEL safe. Knowing should be sufficient but feeling seems to hang on and drag along too. I know that the race matters. And is there someone out there who would “bit my arm off” for the chance to do what I am commissioned to do?

I admit to being convicted about playing safe.

My life luke-warm, no power or clout
So God in Heaven spits me out

I am encouraged that God has not yet reached the stage of spitting me out! He knows my life’s path and while I might not think that I am making headway right now, His perspective is not mine. It is His work – not mine. He just asks me to cooperate with His Spirit.

I will be there at the finishing line – and not pushing my bike.

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