After a summer of staring at the cyclometer and measuring up to the Strava app that tells us where we rode, how we rode and who beat us on every pedal stroke, it seems like a good idea to dispense with all that and simply ride.
After a morning visit to church on Holy Cross Sunday, in which Christians are invited to contemplate the true meaning of being nailed to a slab of wood and bled to death, it also seemed to make sense to get out and make sense of the world.
There’s a relationship between those two modes of suffering, you see. The athlete’s propensity to suffer and the Christian’s will to embrace the torture and death of Jesus Christ as salvation for the sins of the world are tied together at the very knot of being.
What else could explain the patent suffering of the athlete nailed to the bike at the perineum of being? Clipped to the pedal for miles of agony. The bike is a cross of sorts. It helps us through the catharsis of daily life. What’s that saying? “It never gets easier. You just go faster.”
And another saying: “When you’re wrestling a gorilla, you don’t quit when you’re tired. You quit when the gorilla gets tired.”
In other words, the competition of life never relents.
Except when you choose to relent.
Which meant that my companion and I drove our cars to a choice spot on the northwest side of St. Charles, Illinois, and rode our bikes 31.5 miles on a loop that climbs up and over a high point near Burlington, Illinois. We did it without suffering. We did it without pain. We did it together for the sake of enjoying our joint levels of fitness and to enjoy the company we share, and our time together.
That’s no sin.
Because I for one do not embrace a faith of total suffering for the sake of religious dedication. You won’t find me with metal barbs piercing my flesh underneath my business suit to remind me that Jesus died for my sins.
Sure, there’s a time and a place for appreciating sacrifice. But there’s also a time and a place for breathing in the sunlight. I mean that both literally and figuratively.
We rode happily into a southwest breeze that seemed more amused than tortured by our presence. It was not hard climbing the hills once we’d warmed up. But we decided jointly not to kill it on the climbs anyway. Just ride.
Looking over at her face in 5:00 late summer light it dawned on me how much time we’d spent together on the bike this last year or so. Just last week we thundered through an approaching storm, wind and rain, with neither of us complaining, just enjoying the ride for all its possible misery. So we’re not daytrippers. We don’t avoid the difficulty.
There is always time to consider our sins and enough time to punish the soul. It is just as important to come to grips with what you can let go, and do it. No sin in forgiveness either, or forgiving ourselves. That’s what the Christian aspect is truly all about.
It’s not just blood on the cross or flesh on the ground, ripped from the back of a penitent Christ by Roman flogging. The crown of thorns that sometimes feels like a bike helmet? It’s okay to remove it. Set it down. Even ride without it on days when the pedaling is slow and the tires are fat. Ignore the risks. Enjoy the ride.
This whole penitence thing does have its limits. There’s a fine line between Holy Cross and Holy Shit, it’s time for a break.,
And when you cross that line, you may find the sun shining, the breeze pleasant and the pedaling magnificent. You might find yourself in a little slice of heaven, or perfection.
That’s where we found ourselves yesterday. In case you never understood that kind of existence, the bible supports that too. This life is not supposed to be all misery.
So don’t be so cross with yourself. There’s no sin in enjoying the ride.