For those of you who’ll miss the preaching on Sunday, here’s a little sermonette to encourage you. Up, Rambler’s. Up.
“I can’t do it,” I say to myself. Playing the scenario over again in my mind, “I’m not going to be able to do it.” Over…over…over at a rate of 50 revolutions a minute, I turn my chainring and press into the North Carolina High Country from the foothills of Lenoir. I think a lot about, “not” as I’m climbing NC 181 after my right turn off of Brown Mountain Road in Burke County. The twelve or so mile climb up to Jonas Ridge and then on to Blue Ridge Parkway takes a good rider an hour, but less mortals such as myself an hour and a half or longer. I might be able to do this, but the final climb up Grandfather Mountain after 100 miles? I don’t know. I don’t think I can do this.
The great thing about being a heavy cyclist is that going downhill is so much fun. The hard thing about being a heavy cyclist is the hill you have to climb in order to go downhill. Today, I’m riding my bike uphill because I need to ride uphill. For far too long, I have lived my life as if I could avoid the hills and through sheer cleverness find the downhill ride which affords all the thrill with as little effort possible.
Last year when I started riding my bike, I weighed 275 pounds and was angry and disgusted and motivated to lose a third of man I’d become. The old English way of calculating weight is a “stone.” A stone is fourteen pounds. I weighed nineteen and a half stone. I felt like a stone, but less firm – more like jelly, dense jelly. I started climbing hills because I needed the humbling discipline of pushing, dragging, and peddling myself out of the hole in which I had descended over the past fourteen years. Climbing back on the bike and heading uphill was a slippery slope of sorts. I had somehow come to the conviction that before I could endure the discipline of suffering on a bike by climbing hills, I needed to lose weight first. I was humiliated because I weighed 275. But in order to get back on the bike, I had to get myself together enough in order to not be so humiliated when I got back on the bike. I wanted to be above having to lose weight so that I could feel like my life had not become unmanageable, so that I didn’t have to face the person I’d become, so I didn’t have to ride so far up. Now, climbing NC 181 after riding 50 miles already, I feel as if I’ve transcended sitting on a bike to being poured over it. I don’t think I can do this.
Filled with self-doubt and fear and the nagging question of whether or not I can ride my bike to the top of Grandfather Mountain, I have a sense that I will do it. Granted, it’s not so much my confidence in my preparation as it is that this ride has a finish, that I am headed towards it, and there are people who love me waiting for me. (You’d be surprised what you can endure if you know that you’re headed somewhere and that it’ll end someday). Toward the end of his life Paul wrote to a church which was pushing against the resistance of an uphill climb of sorts: persecution, in-fighting, temptation, difficulty. In speaking of his own experience he wrote, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Paul pressed on because he knew what and Whom was waiting for him at the finish; this is: “knowing the power of His resurrection.” Do you “consider Him who endured” so that you might not grow weary and loose heart? Jesus suffered for us to secure the victory, and your enduring in that suffering shows that God is making you of sterner stuff than the fleeting difficulty of this world. Press on toward the goal.
Up Ramblers! Up!