Sweet Aroma

I’ve been passing honeysuckle on my rides, and I was reminded of a piece I wrote back in 2004 after a 14 year hiatus from the bike. Here it is in its entiriety.

Well, I did it. I mustered up the courage to climb back on my bike. Granted it was neither graceful nor pretty nor painless, but after pushing through the discomfort both physically and emotionally, I’ve discovered that I’m a “roadie”. (Bicyclists who ride on the road are called “roadies”).

Riding on a bike has afforded all manner of added blessing. One of the biggest and possibly more ironic is that you can’t go too fast. Seems contradictory, doesn’t it? Isn’t fast better? Granted there is a thrill in speed, but much in life is not fast. In fact there is much that seems laboriously slow and arduous, so repetitively insignificant as to be pointless. The great thing about road riding is that you go somewhere but not too fast.

Because of bike riding, I’ve been able to enjoy the weather in ways that I have not experienced for a while. Much of my life has felt like running from shelter to shelter – air conditioner to air conditioner. Being outside more, in the heat, the sun, the rain, and the cold, I have rediscovered my childhood love for weather. It’s so amazing. No day is like any other, the clouds are different, the sun’s light is different, even the scenery is constantly changing — albeit imperceptibly sometimes. Without cycling though, I never would experience it.

I ride south out of town on Teague Lane. Teague is a wonderful downhill road, but unfortunately it’s not downhill both ways. Coming up Teague is a slow, dulling, head-down, hard breathing, uphill climb. On the climbs, as you slow down and concentrate more and more on simply making the bike move, you start to think, “Why am I doing this? It hurts. Where am I going? This is pointless. I’ve been riding for two hours only to come back where I started?” You get the idea. Questions and doubt creep in, and it seems so reasonable to climb off the bike and use my cell phone to call my wife to come get me.

What I love about Teague Lane is that there is a payoff. Once you pass the golf course on the left, a wild vine is flowering. The sweet smell of those clusters of purple flowers almost knocks me off the bike every time. I’m always surprised by it. Maybe the intensity of work up the hill heightens my sense of smell, but it is like, Pow! And at that moment, I find myself grateful and glad to be able to experience this flower that God made which, if I were in a car with my windows rolled up and listening to the news or talking on the phone, I would never know was there.

Paul reminds us in Second Corinthians that God is leading us in triumphant procession in Christ and that to the world, we are “the aroma of Christ.” I like to think of that vine as that aroma. To those who are almost overwhelmed by the difficulty, the work, the questions, and the doubt, the good news about Jesus Christ is like the aroma of that vine – a sweet smelling, life crashing invasion of the senses which moves us to gratitude and worship even in the midst of difficulty. The wonderful thing is that Paul says, “we are the aroma of Christ to those who are perishing.” As we stay connected to Jesus as the vine, he makes us the flower by which our lives become a sweet call to those who find themselves asking, “Why am I doing this? Where am I going? What’s the point?” Take time today cultivate gratitude in your heart. God is leading you somewhere. Though you may often ask, “Where?” Talk to Him about it, and though you may find yourself pushing up a hard climb, at the top is the promise of blessing which overwhelms the adversity and satisfies the hunger.

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