Over the past two weeks, I’ve caved to my inner hippie and become a cyclist commuter. In all honesty, it wasn’t just my earth-child tendencies that led me to two-wheeled transportation. I’ve been working to streamline and simplify my life lately, partly out of conviction (I need to be a better steward of my resources) and largely out of need (I need to pay off student loans). Bicycling to work and to the gym- which are the same place for me- was an obvious way to make progress towards that goal.
To my surprise, life in the bike lane has been rewarding in other ways besides saving money and sculpting quads of glory. (Ok, no, my quads aren’t that glorious and actually, they’re a little squishy. I’m sorry we can’t all be Lance Armstrong.) The four-mile round trip, I’ve discovered is this precious time when my only company are the tires beneath me and the wind on my face, and the world seems more real looking up from under a helmet rather than through a windshield. Each commute is an opportunity- if only for ten minutes- to step into my own little Mayberry, population: 1. In these sweet moments of solitude, I am more aware of my blessings. Each breath of open air is an awakening, and each push of the pedals is a reminder that I am alive and I am drenched in grace. . In those moments, I am not racing down asphalt roads but along the streets of heaven. My body is moving, my mind is still, and my spirit is dancing. Flying down the hills I feel in my body the freedom that I know in my soul, and it is not speed that thrills me but freedom.
Then there are the climbs. The way home has a couple hills, which are no big deal…except for when you’re pedaling back after a leg workout, and all you can think about is how much your legs hurt and how much you wish you were already home. On my first couple of trips, my legs and lungs were on fire as I tried to race up the hills and be done as quickly as possible. But then on my third time riding home, I realized something: I just have to get there. I’m not in a race, I’m not on a deadline, I’m just going home. I just have to get there. It was a game-changer knowing that I didn’t have to get there fast and I didn’t have to look cute doing it (Do you even know how difficult it is for me to look cute when I’m standing still? Yeah, on a bike, wearing a helmet, and going uphill- just not happening.). I can go slow, I can go fast, I can go the backroads…I just have to keep heading home. And suddenly, the climbs don’t seem so bad.
I think it’s the same thing with life, you know?
The challenges and the hard times are not a competition to see who can get conquer them first, or best, or prettiest. Sometimes, we do need to pedal furiously and get up the hill as fast as we can. But a lot of times, the valleys we go through are an inevitable part of every life, and we just need to get up the hill. Nothing fancy, nothing impressive, nothing that hasn’t been done before by others. And as long as you keep moving- even if you have to shift down a few gears- you’ll get there. When you’re pedaling without trying to prove something, you find that the uphill has its own kind of freedom to offer. You may not be flying, but you’re free.
Just as long as you keep heading home.
(It’s funny how much you learn about life when you’re in the bike lane.)