I got into cycling a few years ago as an intentional way to spend time with my dad.
As a kid growing up, I had a pretty good relationship with both of my parents. I did what they told me, I wanted to make them proud of me, and I tried to represent our family as best I could. I was always close with my older brother and my cousins, but my parents, not so much. You know, they were old...
Now a dad myself, I realize that I didn't have a super close relationship with my dad and didn't have that much in common with him besides our shared ancestry. I wanted to change that, but I didn't want to sit down and say something like "tell me your life story" (though now that seems like an easier and less resource driven option!) so I thought I could do something that he likes as a way of getting to know the guy. So I bought a pair of spandex and off I went into the world of cycling.
Cycling with my dad is fun and interesting. We go on long training rides of 40 - 80 miles and it takes a lot of time to finish the rides. We stop a lot. We eat a lot. And we talk a lot. It's pretty great getting to know my dad in this way and I enjoy it. Plus I kinda like the spandex.
Last week we were riding in an official sponsored ride. We planned to do 46 miles (the lowest option of miles) for the ride and my brother was going to come along as well. At the last minute, my brother had to cancel, so it was my dad and I off to do our ride. It was a great day for a bike ride. Cool weather and light traffic. We talked about small things and generally went about the business of riding our carbon framed speed rockets.
About 14 miles into the ride, we were going down this big hill, full of switchbacks. Its the kind of hill you just need to let your brakes go a little bit and ride it down, but we saw car brake lights and a traffic back up and knew there was trouble ahead. We slowed down and tried to navigate the snarl of traffic ahead of us, down this very steep and curvy hill. A pretty serious accident looked like it occurred a few minutes before we got there. Police and first aid were there, clearing things up and they were about to let cars through. Dangerous road, I thought as I passed by slowly.
Since I was riding my brakes all the way down the hill, my hand started to get tired and I readjusted my grip on my right hand, the back brake. I needed to brake quickly and instinctively I triggered my left hand brake, the front brake to slow down. Instead of slowing, my bike stopped instantly. Due to the steep hill and my momentum, I flew over the handlebars of my bike and crashed into the road. Since I am a trained ninja (from all the episodes of Lego Ninjago I have watched with my sons), I tucked my head and rolled on my shoulder. I landed directly on my right shoulder and flipped over, a tangle of limbs and bike parts. Luckily, I did not break anything. After a pause I gathered myself, picked myself up, grabbed my bike, shook my head, and walked towards the shoulder of the road. A minute later my dad rolled up and asked if I was okay. I was. But boy, that hurt. And it was dumb. A silly mistake that I know better not to make.
Maybe out of pride or a fear of embarrassment I did not ask for help. The medics were a mere 100 feet away, but I did not want to sit in the back of an ambulance. I came to ride. I shook it off, got myself together, and got back on the bike. We rode to the supported stop, about a mile away, where there was food, a bike mechanic, and most importantly for me, a doctor to check my injuries. It turned out I was bruised and scraped, but not broken, and though I was in pain, I could keep going. And I did.
Someone once said to me that there are two type of cyclists, the ones who have fallen, and then those who are going to fall. Basically, we are all going to fall at some point. Reflecting on my ride it made me think of sin. It's like there are two types of humans, the ones who who have sinned, and the ones who are about to sin. We are all touched by sin.
I have been thinking about my bike fall in this way - I wasn't in an ideal situation. I should have been doing things differently. I know not to touch my left brake in this situation. I know what will happen if I do it. I do it. Hey, I can fly! The ground is coming up fast. Can I ninja my way out of this? Ouch. That hurts. Did I break anything? Am I okay? I know better. Why did I do that? Get up.
Sin, too, operates in this same mode. This is not the ideal situation. I am not being my best self here. I know I should not do this thing; it has consequences that will affect me. This is going to hurt. This hurts.
No matter how many times I have made the same mistake, I still end up doing it. I know not to do it, and I do it anyway. St. Paul admits that himself in his letter to the Romans, chapter 7. It reads, "What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate... For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want" (7:15-19). Part of our nature is this foolish, fallen, nature that needs redemption and healing. Sin is not the entirety of my being, but it is a part of it.
So what do we do? I don't think I have all the answers, here, but I know a couple of things. Just like in cycling, pausing and checking to see if I am okay is a good place to start. Seeing if I broke anything is important too. Oftentimes, sin leads to breaking important things; things we love and care about deeply. If there is something seriously wrong, get help. Talk to someone. A mentor, friend, or priest. Prayer and confession are awesome and amazing. And then get up. Keep going. It will hurt, but you have the inner strength to keep going.
Less than a minute after my fall my dad showed up. Isn't that like the Father too? So close and ready to be there for us. After my fall, my dad walked with me, talked with me, and rode with me until I could get back to speed. He was there. My dad and I finished our 46 miles, complete with two giant hill climbs. We smiled and laughed, knowing that one of us may fall again sometime, but that we are not alone.
So now I have a scabbed up shoulder that should turn into an awesome scar. I have a story to tell my friends and my kids. I have a lesson learned, that I will probably learn again until Kingdom come. And most of all I have the Grace of God's presence and the gift of family.