Saying When

Thirty miles.  I can do this.

Cycling is not second nature to me.  I still have to force myself into the clothes and out the door on each solo ride I make.  After several years of self-discipline and more than a few dollars spent for equipment, I still argue like a three-year-old being made to eat his squash.  Every time.

That said, I am learning a lot about myself—a lot more than I learn while sitting on the couch.  The lessons help me to understand much about who I am and who I want to become.

Some would say I’ve left it a little late.  I say, it is what it is.

Thirty miles was my goal as I left the house one afternoon last week.  Almost two hours on the tiny, hard bicycle seat.  

My friends do twice that every Saturday.  And they’re older than I.  I was going to do this!

That afternoon, the first twelve miles went by fairly quickly with a couple of minor, mostly inconvenient, events which rattled me a little. I was tired and thirsty already.  Add to that the fact I hate riding along the state highway with traffic zipping past at sixty and seventy miles per hour, and you’ll understand why I was grateful for a quiet parking lot in which to grab a drink and put my foot down on the pavement for a moment.  

I had flown down the last downhill section of the highway right before my rest stop. Freeing one of my two water bottles from its cage, I gulped enough of the ice-cold, clear liquid to irrigate the  gritty desert in my throat.  

I didn’t want to cool down too much, but I did want to quiet my spirit and forget the honking, motor-revving pickup on that narrow country lane earlier.  The old guy pulling a stock trailer who sped up to get in front of me before making a right turn right across my way hadn’t helped things any, either.

And yet, it didn’t take long before I was ready to ride again.

Now, the busy highway was between me and my chosen route.  I had to cross five lanes.  That’s all I had to do to get back onto the quiet back road, along which I could speed—or lollygag—whichever.

Cross the highway.  Easy, right?  Wait for a break in traffic and, pushing both pedals, roll right across.  Twelve miles down, eighteen to go.

Easy, peasy.

Checking traffic to my left and seeing none, I eased across the lane.  To my right, a pickup truck crested the hill quite a distance away.  Well, perhaps he was closer.

A lot closer!

It didn’t help that I was in the highest gear on the bicycle.  Well I would be, after flying down that hill, wouldn’t I?  I should have checked.

I should also have estimated the oncoming traffic’s speed better.  

Pedal!  Harder!

My left foot, not yet locked into the pedal, slipped off.  The right foot was locked in.  It would have to do.

I pedaled furiously—up, down, up. down—all with one foot.  In the highest gear.

Safety!  I made it!  Moving quickly now, I coasted along the rural lane, lifting my left foot back onto the pedal to lock it into place.  Ow!

Wow!  That hurt!  My lower back, evidently not up to the stress of one-footed pedaling, let me know I had strained a major muscle.  What would I do?

The Lovely Lady was a phone call away—the pickup truck ready to haul my bicycle home.  Or, I could simply head for home.  It had been twelve miles out, but six or seven by the most direct route would soon have me home.

Thirty miles.  I had promised myself I would ride thirty today.

I kept riding.

cycling-655565_640Thirty-three miles showed on my fitness program when I pulled back up to the storage barn in which I house my faithful steed.

I surpassed my goal.  I climbed hills.  I rolled through beautiful farmland.  I passed the safari grounds with exotic breeds of animals everywhere.  Camels, ostriches, and buffalo, along with a gazelle or two, gazed out at me as I stared in at them.  It was a wonderful ride through the springtime countryside.  

I want to be proud.

What I am, is embarrassed.

My friends who ride will read the description above and mutter the words under their breath.  I know they will.  

Rookie!  Amateur!

They’re not wrong.  I should have checked my gears.  I should have been able to easily lock my left shoe into the pedal mount. Still. That’s not why I’m embarrassed.  Not all of it anyway.

Goals are important, aren’t they?  Sometimes, one must just work through the pain and finish what they started.

It’s true. Goals matter.  But, there’s more to the story, isn’t there?

May I tell you the sentence I have uttered more times this week than I can count?  (Well, besides Oh, my back hurts!)

“I’m sorry it’s not finished yet.  I hurt my back and haven’t been able to work at my bench most of the week.”

I met my goal on Saturday.  And because of that, I haven’t been able to meet one since.

I would have been disappointed to miss the mark that day.  

Any number of people have been disappointed that I’ve missed the mark every day in this week.

My stubbornness has affected many more people than a little discretion would have.  

Only one person would have been unhappy about that missed goal—Me.

I wonder.  Folks all around me are telling me not to worry about tomorrow.  

Live in the moment.  You only live once.  Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

The same people are telling me not to live in the past, as well.  But, it’s back in the past that I have experienced this before.  My memories of the past should have aided me in preparing for the future.

We don’t live in the past, but we do learn from it.

We don’t worry about the future, but we do plan for it.

We live today, but not as if it were the only day.

There are times when we will need help, too. There is no shame in missing the goal when wisdom dictates a different course.  There is no shame in saying, I need help.

I need help.

Do you know someone who is so focused on an individual goal they’ve set that everything and everybody else is invisible to them?  Perhaps, it might even be you.

The job at hand takes so much attention that we forget it’s only a part of what we’ve been called to do.

We need to know when to say when.

Somehow, I can’t help but think about the prophet Elisha as he sat under the tree, his goals unmet, wanting to die.  He had faced the prophets of the foreign god and conquered spectacularly.  Achieving that goal, he forgot their defeat was only one step in another, greater purpose  Then, when faced with reality, he shut down completely. (1 Kings 19:1-8)

God sent an angel to take care of him.  The messenger from God fed him, suggesting that the journey was too hard without food and drink. Eating, he was refreshed and continued on his journey.

I’m always amazed at the messengers God sends my way.  Some are lovely, some incredibly unkind.  Some are gentle, while a number are rough and crude.  

Still, accepting their aid, and as I am willing to refocus, I remember that each goal is not independent of the one before or after, but merely different.

And sometimes, when I am hurt and alone, He covers me with His own wings and protects from danger.

Unless, I keep pedaling.

I’m shooting for the mark, but I don’t want to miss a thing He has for me along the way.

There is still joy to be found in the journey.

Maybe, it’s time to say when.



I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
    with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
On my bed I remember you;

    I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,

    I sing in the shadow of your wings.
(Psalms 63:5-7 ~ NIV)

Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it.
(Ziad Abdelnour ~ American investment banker)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.

3 thoughts on “Saying When

  1. So I read about your big adventure and I remembered one bike ride. My sister had gone on ahead when she heard a car beep its horn and she came back to find me in the street.

    “When I heard the horn…I knew it was you.”

    But let’s not forget another bike ride. This one was on the sidewalk. A woman was walking ahead. She stopped, so I stopped but when my friend riding behind me tried stopping she was unsuccessful. He bike slices a 14 inch in my calf. Sixteen stitches later, is it any wonder bikes are not my favorite mode of transportation??

    1. Ha! I feel your pain, Anne! Having had my share of contusions and even a concussion a few years ago, I should hate it, but still I persist. Maybe, I’m just not done having adventures yet. Blessings on your day, my friend!

  2. Seems like a lot of work to me Paul. More power to you! Cycling is truly not one of my greatest attributes, but I admire to who go that extra mile. That motivation can be applied to many aspects of your life as well as others, mines include. Good read, thanks for sharing. God Bless.

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