I wish I knew how it happened. Maybe I’m just too competitive. Someday, I’ll learn.
Nearing the end of a bicycle ride today, I noticed an athletically-built young man on his bike some distance ahead of me. Going the same direction as I, but with the interval between us lessening steadily, it appeared I would be ahead of him fairly soon.
He rounded a curve in the road and glanced back to see me a couple hundred feet behind. Immediately, he stood up on his pedals and began to pump away, swinging the bike wildly from side to side with his muscular grip on the handlebars.
It was hard to misinterpret his intent. There was no way this old man was going to pass him!
Oh, man! Challenge accepted!
I didn’t stand up. I didn’t throw the bicycle from side to side. I simply spun the pedals faster, exerting myself where I had been on autopilot a moment before. As I reached a higher speed, I flipped the right-hand brake lever (also the shifter) to the side and the derailleur on the back wheel dropped the chain over one sprocket, sending more of my expended energy to the wheel propelling the lightweight machine of metal and rubber.
Within a quarter mile, I had overtaken the young man and, acting the part of the gracious winner (merely acting, mind you), greeted him in passing, only to hear his backdoor criticism of my feat.
“That’s an awesome bike, man!”
I sputtered out a comment about it being a great day for a ride and pedaled on past. He turned a corner moments later and was lost from the view of my little rearview mirror.
I pedaled on at the same speed for awhile, but slowed gradually as the short, odd interaction took over my mind.
He’s not wrong.
It is a wonderful bicycle.
It’s a lot more bicycle than a rider like myself deserves. It was offered to me for a very reasonable price by an old friend just over a year ago. Since the Lord had recently blessed me with an extra sum of money earned playing my horn, I had the wherewithal to afford it and I purchased it.
I understand how nice the bike is. That’s not my problem.
The thing is, the bicycle didn’t overtake the fellow on the road today.
Lest you think I’m getting a size or two too large for my lycra shorts, let me assure you I understand very clearly my limitations as a cyclist.
I’m not that good a rider.
But, here is what I know, mostly from long periods of time spent doing just the opposite: If one rides regularly, one develops the ability to ride faster and farther.
You have to ride your bike.
A month ago, the young athlete would have pulled away from me easily, showing up this old man on his awesome bike.
That beautiful bicycle sitting in the storage barn could never have passed anyone by itself. And, ridden by a cyclist on the road for his first outing in a year, the result would certainly have been a losing effort.
As often happens, while my mind was still chewing on the remnants of this earlier event, a seemingly unrelated activity later in the day gave me something new to contemplate.
I was glancing at my smartphone, and decided it was past time to clear out the notes reminding me I need to pick up eight-penny finishing nails (the 8d nails are in the pine window jamb already), or that I couldn’t forget to buy a new battery for my truck’s key fob (I did that six months ago). There were lots more, but most are just as mundane—and outdated—as these, so I won’t bore you with a recitation of them all.
One note caught my attention as I flipped past though, so I quickly scrolled back up to it. It was a little blurb I wrote months ago, thinking about who-knows-what? at the time.
Be content with what you have, but never with where you are.
Somehow tonight, the words jumped off the screen at me. I’ll delete those other notes later. This is important stuff!
The apostle who once was called Saul made the statement. Well, he actually made two different statements, but both are rolled up in this one.
Thanking his friends for sending a gift to him, the letter-writing apostle hastened to let them know he had no problem functioning with whatever God provided. I have learned, in whatever condition I find myself—with that, to be content. (Philippians 4:11)
Earlier in the same letter, he had encouraged them to keep moving—leaving the past and its accomplishments behind—to the goal, never staying in the same place. (Philippians 3:12-14)
The two statements stand, seemingly in opposition to each other. When combined though, they form a principle with the capability of radically changing the way we live our lives.
Never be satisfied.
It messes with the brain a bit, doesn’t it?
Be content with what you have, but never with where you are.
I have a very nice French horn which sits in its case on my floor. Well sure, I have the horn, but why didn’t our Creator make me a prodigy so I could play it effortlessly and flawlessly (and even earn money for more nice cycling equipment)?
I wonder. I have the horn. Perhaps, I could practice and then possibly, I might someday be able to play it adequately.
Some may wish they could execute beautiful counted cross stitch projects, having needle and thread already in their possession, but lacking the ability and the training to immediately achieve their dream. I wonder if such a person might start by sewing buttons on shirtsleeves and then see what comes next.
If I gaze longingly out toward the storage barn, remembering the awesome bicycle out there, but wishing for the strength and understanding to operate such a conveyance, I’ll never have more than that bicycle—sitting idle in storage.
It takes time and dedication to be able to use His gifts properly.
And somehow, when we commit ourselves to moving forward, He seems to give better gifts with which to make the journey.
It’s time to take what He’s blessed us with and move in the direction He points us.
Closer to home.
It is an awesome bike.
Time to get in the race.
Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.
(On the Road ~ Jack Kerouac ~ American novelist ~1922-1969)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2017. All Rights Reserved.