The Payoff

“There are two kinds of riders–those who have had an accident, and those who will have one.”


Not a single bike ride goes by that I don’t remember the comment made by my friend the mathematician.  He’s not all odd numbers and bad jokes, it seems.

“Two kinds…”

My friend fits into the first category.  So do I.  Neither of us actually remembers our respective accident, since concussions were involved.  He was hit by a car, ending up in the hospital; I bounced down a hill in the dark on my head and other parts, eventually finding my way home again in the pitch-black night.

We’ve both had our accident.

And yet, not a single ride goes by without the words coming to mind again.  I can’t avoid this sinking feeling–this feeling that I’m not completely home-free yet.  Now, why would that be?

Oh yes!  I’ve got it!  Being in the first category?  It doesn’t preclude being a member of the second.

“…those who will have one.”

Any day now, I may have another bike wreck.  Any day now.  And yet, I get on the machine and pedal away time after time.  Does that make any sense to you?

One doesn’t have to be a cyclist to understand the drive, the inherent need to do whatever it is they do.  Again and again.  It is true that we may face the paramedic’s gurney, or the CT-scan machine in the emergency room.  We do it anyway.

It is also possible that the consequence will be something entirely different.  No less devastating–just different.  The activity we must participate in may cause us pain, but we do it anyway.

My friends said goodby to their children and grandchildren–years ago now, it seems.  When we speak with them about their loved ones, there are always tears in their eyes.  Always.  Their grandchildren are growing up in a foreign land without grandparents to spoil them.  They can’t even gather their children into a hug that shows how much they love them.

It is their own fault.

Does that seem harsh?  I don’t mean it to be.

You see, when we teach children to love God and to love others, there is the distinct possibility that they will do just that.  Sometimes when they do (love God and others), they decide to go someplace else to do it–someplace half a world away.

Ask my friends if they would do it again.  Go ahead.  Ask them.

You know the answer, don’t you? 

In a heartbeat.  A heartbeat.

The Lovely Lady and I were married by a wise old man who, alongside his sweet wife, had spent years in Africa as missionaries–a lifetime before, it seemed to them. We heard the story many times.  But, I will never forget the tremor that came into this rough German pastor’s voice every time he spoke of it.  Never.

The it he spoke of was the little infant-sized coffin he made and then buried under the African dirt with his own hands–a coffin that held their tiny little girl who died of a tropical illness for which no treatment was available in that remote region.  As he painfully described the event which had happened in years long past, it was as if the tragedy had occurred only the day before.

Some things you never completely recover from.

Once, as he talked of that sad event, I watched his sweet wife cover her mouth with her hand to hold back the storm that threatened to overtake her emotions, and I suddenly realized the incredible personal cost of their service.  It was a realization that cannot be soon forgotten.

Like the friends mentioned above, I wish I could encourage you to ask the old pastor and his wife if it was worth it–if they would do it again–but they are both gone from this earth now.  Reunited with their sweet baby.

I think I know the answer they would give you though.

In a heartbeat.  A heartbeat.

Each of us have dreams and plans of things that we must accomplish in this lifetime.  Must.  The pathway to those goals is fraught with pitfalls.  Cyclists have wrecks.  Investors lose fortunes.  Sadness awaits at the end of relationships.

When we face the potential disasters, the prize that awaits at the end of the road may seem momentarily to be diminished in value.  But, if we have counted the cost, we forge ahead, regardless of the possibility of loss.  

When we risk all, we may well lose all.  We risk it anyway.

The payoff comes when the course is complete.

Not before.

I’ll keep riding.


The ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.”
(William G.T. Shedd ~ American Presbyterian theologian ~ 1820-1894)

“But don’t begin until you count the cost.  For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?”
(Luke 14:28 ~ NLT)

Thanks to Matthew Williams for permission to use his photo, taken by Mike Briggs.

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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