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Don't Forget to Bleed
It was 27 degrees and snowing. My butt was numb and my pinky finger had fallen off. Okay, my pinky finger hadn’t fallen off. It was just cold. And it hurt.
But more than my finger, my pride really hurt. I was getting my lunch handed to me on a trail I had ridden for years—by a guy fifteen years older than me. Getting smacked-down like I was a mere child on the mountain bike is not a good feeling. Especially when your pinky finger is frozen to your brake.
Years ago I began mountain biking because it was hard. In the first two years I seldom returned home without bleeding cuts, painful bruises or feeling just plain beaten. No, I’m not a masochist, but there is something alluring about sitting on a steel two-wheeled “horse” and riding up mountains, hopping over boulders, bombing down technical descents and climbing log bridges. It’s not a man-thing as much as it a human-thing (debatable, yes).
We all have that one thing that makes us feel like, “This is how it should be.” And that feeling, come to find out, is from God. It’s knitting, singing or woodworking. It’s statistical engineering, fly-fishing or design. It’s living. And in the living is where we, as individuals and all humanity, fall deeper and deeper into God’s purpose. Our uniquely created quirks—loves, hobbies, vocations—are our glory offerings. They are the “created for” part of our being.
But there is a “created with” aspect as well—with God and with each other. Mountain biking is only an experience—an interesting passing of time. What is it about being pulverized by a 52 year-old ironman that makes me feel human (besides the blood)?
It’s him—the ironman.
He’s got this extra-large high-end full suspension bike frame with a mud fender over the back
front tires. Who uses those? He’s wearing a pair of 1987 long-legged tights with spandex riding shorts over them. He’s sporting this brand new helmet from Star Trek or something and he’s at least six foot five. And that’s all legs, trust me.
As I’m eating his dust I’m relating to him. I’m wondering: how and when he started riding, what he does for a living and if he’s ever going to slow up.
The ride was a great experience but the bike and the mountain and the trees can only do so much. There are two things that make the experience transcendent: God and man.
My ironman buddy added the relational element. We chatted, huffed and puffed, and talked about—of all things—church. It’s our relational qualities that separate us from a tree or a bike or a Droid.
My previous post was about an
stealing away someone’s attention from a conversation I was trying to start. But my friend Brent says that it’s not just the technology’s fault. We, many times, are socially awkward people. We are rude and self-centered. Technology exaggerates this.
But it also gives us an excuse not to relate to one another at all. We become isolated gnomes, commenting on each other’s statuses but not really knowing or touching or loving anyone.
The point is we are intensely relational beings. And the more we allow our lives to be infiltrated by the unfettered use and love of things like phones and computers and really any “thing” that boasts humanity’s progress, the more we diminish what makes us uniquely human.
My former pastor used to say, “Love people, use things.” We need to be savagely selfish with our relationships. That is to say, we should protect them from the invasion of
. We need to
turn off our phones
during in-person conversations. We need to get off Facebook while sitting next to our spouse. We need to realize and seize the opportunities to be in relation to each other. In the end, we are the only ones to blame if our relationships become boorish and uninteresting.
Maybe we should all be getting our butts kicked on a trail. Maybe we need to do anything that reminds us that we are human and can bleed. Maybe we need to be a little extreme and turn our phones off at 5 p.m. (whoa!).
My two-year-old daughter loves to come into my office and grab my hand. She says, ‘C’mere daddy,” and leads me out to the back deck. “Run daddy! Run.” She then runs back and forth in the yard for no other purpose but exhaustion. Then she falls in the grass. But when I’m with her it’s especially fun. There’s something magical about falling in the wintry dead grass with your two-year-old that says, “Yea, this is how it’s supposed to be!”
Toss your phone for one day. Do your work in a journal—keep the laptop shut. Life is about
, one to another. And we can all
… God, help us.
Thanks so much for the post. In fact, I completely resonate with this (in fact, are we living two parallel lives at the moment?) because I too just got whipped on the mountain bike a few weeks ago.
I'm a youth pastor and got invited for a ride by a 53-year old dad who rides 5 days a week. This "ironman" led me up and down trails I thought were only rideable on a 4x4...and I spent more time looking at his back tire then the open trail in front of me. In the midst of the ride, we had some of the deepest, encouraging conversations I've had in years.
Speaking of bleeding, we were coming down a pretty technical section called "Dead Cow" (yes, you read that right) and I got into a rut, went over the handlebars, and 3 weeks later I'm still nursing a sprained shoulder and swollen knee. And the crazy thing about the whole experience was the first thing I said to my "ironman" friend after I picked myself back up, hopped on the bike, and caught up to him again:
"I needed that."
Thanks for your thoughts and kind words. Maybe I should refer to you as my parallel self. Ha! Great story too of riding with "ironman". When I first started riding--way back--I would go with my brother-in-law. He used to race semi-pro so you can kind of get an understanding of how crazy our rides were. I was always hacked up, bailing over my bars almost every ride.
But it's like you said, our conversations during those times of riding were amazing. Intimate times of connecting on a level you would never get to just meeting at the diner for coffee.
My friend Jason and I were talking about the difference between experience and encounters. Martin Buber says that an experience is something that is more transactional ... you experience things in more of a selfish kind of way. Encounters are more relational. Riding to ride is an experience. I get some good exercise and feel pumped. But it becomes an encounter when I do it with my brother or friend--there is connection.
This would also hold true with God. If I ride and set the bike down an listen to the quiet, I am encountering God, listening to His voice. It makes the ride, then, a transcendent thing ... makes me thirsty for more of all of it.
Keep riding man, and careful on those rutty descents. :)
Good read as always Tim.
The relationship I have been working on of late is the one between me and God. Trying to figure out where I fit in this created world. Learning to sit and be still and KNOW that HE is God whenever the Spirit calls to me. This is a very new thing for me and has been pretty awesome and sometimes crazy in how it plays out.
As I do that more and more my relationship with others takes on a new look. It's hard to explain. It's understanding what lives inside of me more than ever and learning let it take control fully. The awareness of His presence in this world and one beyond what my eyes can see. You used the word transcendent and that sums it up pretty good for me!
Never a dull read, Timmacity.
i miss the soaring, tumbling, free-wheeling eloquence with which you write (please excuse the Disney wordage; just finished watching Hercules & the magic is yet lingering).
You consistently convey your hearts' ideals well & from a personable perspective that readers can so easily connect with.
Loved this piece especially with the honesty of the humanistic approach. The human condition is rarely appreciated at this level in a positive sense in the Christian realm from what i've come across.
More often than not human feelings and urges are labeled problematic & the cause of nothing but extreme heartache in my experience. In other words, tune out any symptom of excruciating feeling and simply zen into the droned state of letting God take over.
Allowing such avid pursuits of dual relationship & thirst of both God and man is a beautiful thing.
Love, love, love,
Thanks, Tim! I CAN relate to that. I tend to be the one that turns my phone off when in a real-life conversation, but I am the brunt and the butt of many complaints from displeased individuals who now feel that they should have access to me twenty-four seven. If we dare segregate our time, if we dare dedicate our exclusive attention to a task or relationship at hand, we may at times (more often than not) get the brunt end of a spoiled culture. But, it's one of those things that's worth the fight. Paul, the apostle, knew there was such a thing as a 'good' fight and, indeed, that hoop-time or baseball time with your six-year old is worth it. But sometimes, it's so hard to get away that it doesn't hit you til your halfway through and you look at them, and they look at you, and you smell the air and you feel the ball connect to the ground, and you make a connection too.
In fact, I'm starting a class here in my community called "free reconnection".
Carry-on! and keep up the 'good' fight :)
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