Lessons from the Bicycle

I have now travelled over 260 miles on my new bicycle. Most of these miles have been spent going to and from Chapel, each journey taking just under 6 miles. The bike I ride is electric, but for those not in the know, be advised it is not like travelling upon a moped. I cannot just sit back, the bike doing all the work, I merely taking charge of the steering. No, the battery charge magnifies my own efforts, which allows me to get up those steep hills while still wanting for breath by the time I arrive. Sitting on that bike several hours each week, I have opportunity enough to consider what spiritual lessons my new mode of transport is able to provide.

Firstly, I am certainly getting fitter. Last week when I rode to Chapel on the Wednesday, I did not have to use the ‘boost’ function, which is the battery’s maximum application. The little layby about halfway around the route to which I have grown accustomed to rest and imbibe my drink, I am now able to cycle past without needing the break. Although I continue to puff and pant, there seems to be less of than there used to be. So either the battery is getting more powerful and generous in its level of support, or my leg muscles, which have lain dormant so long, are getting stronger. The harder the ride, the stronger cyclist. The tougher the life, the more resilient the disciple.

When I went to pick my new cycling helmet, there seemed to be an infinite variety of colours, though none of them were cheap. The most fluorescent I determined never to buy, for I thought it would make me stand out. After 100 yards cycling through my hometown, I came to regret my choice. Although many road users are selfish and careless, none of them actually desire an accident. If they could see me better, they would be less inclined to knock me over. Consequently, I went out and bought a fluorescent waterproof coat to compensate for my helmet’s dark blue. We Christians sometimes do not wish to be seen or heard for fear of appearing and sounding foolish. Yet it is important that we are seen and heard, even if we do seem to be fools to a watching world. My life is more important than looking cool on a bike, and the gospel message too important to worry about what a dying world thinks of us.

I was once driving through the Yorkshire Dales. That particular lane was narrow and twisty, and, courtesy of a road closure elsewhere, unusually busy. A couple of people on push bikes were also taking that route and it was well-nigh impossible to overtake. For several miles we were in second gear travelling at the pace of those two cyclists. Legally, they had every right to travel that route and at that speed, and it behoved we motorists to respect that and give them plenty of space. Yet I couldn't help but wonder that had they decided to have a 5-minute break at some convenient location, the rest of us might have carried on our journey and not been made late. If ever I got a bicycle, I remarked, I would be more considerate. Now the boot is on the other foot it isn't always so easy. Nevertheless, when I cycle down Brogden Lane, which is known for its narrow width, I generally pull over to let any cars pass me by. Much as I have every right to get to my destination at the speed with which I feel comfortable, I also wish to fully consider the needs of other users of that road. A brief pull-over to give way to another is no bad thing. Let us all try putting other people before ourselves, which is something the Lord Jesus demonstrated in both His teaching and His example.

Potholes whilst driving a car are both annoying and potentially harmful. At worst they damage the wheels, at best they render an otherwise comfortable journey rather bumpy. On the bicycle, however, they might send one flying off into the air. The other night, I swerved to avoid a pothole, and was a little bemused to see it move. A pothole it was not; a hedgehog it was. My tyres are thick, but I suspect he would have punctured them many times over had I not been careful. I'm therefore glad to have not one, not two, but three front-facing lights on my bike, the most expensive of which cost over 100 pounds. To ride our lanes at night and not see clearly is to end up in a ditch. The darker the lane and the blacker the night, the more vital the lamp by which we travel. Many Christians consider the times in which we currently live to be a period of sustained and worsening gloom. God's word, the Bible, our great lamp, must we depend upon with even greater levels of diligence and care. May we walk by its light, live in its radiance and grow in its knowledge, for there is many a ditch in which the ignorant and careless have fallen.

Living among the hills of Lancashire, there are very few stretches of my journey which are flat. I either seem to be pedalling hard or not pedalling at all. There is a stretch or two in which I can freewheel for what seems like over a mile. One particular stretch of slope sees me hurtling down it at over 35 mph, which, on a narrow lane approaching a corner, causes earnest usage of my brakes. Yet on the return journey, that same stretch warrants a sustained period of continual pedalling. I do not think that all Christians enjoy the same degrees of pleasure, nor the same proportions of difficulty. I have no doubt that some believers are called to suffer far more than others, and yet there is a sense in which all of us go through temptation, trial and adversity. We are all supplied with grace, strength and support from heaven. Those who freewheeled today must pedal hard tomorrow and those who find themselves with a steep hill to climb will often be granted a period of calm and refreshment thereafter. Few of us walk the plains; this life is made of hills and valleys: up and down, down and up: be not surprised at the hill you must ascend but rather marvel at the view from the top and the pleasure of the descent.

I have already alluded to my bicycle’s battery. I cannot just sit up on it press a button and zoom into the distance. I must pedal, I must invest effort, I must expend energy if the bike is to move. Then why bother with a battery, you might ask. Like a parent pushing a small child on his trike, the battery supplements my own strength with its own power. I decide where I wish to go and try my best to get there, while the battery tops-up. It makes up the difference to ascend that steep hill which on a normal bike I would fail, but with the battery's aid, I may conquer. This reminds me of sanctification. The Holy Spirit makes holy none that would not be so. And yet we who would be holy, and pure, and righteous in this life cannot achieve it. What we want to do we do not do; what we do not want to do, that we do. Yet the Holy Spirit's presence within supplements our meagre will power and strength, helping us reach those heights of purity we could never under our own steam achieve. Not only has the Lord purchased my redemption, but even in this life He enables us to say "no" to ungodliness that we might live lives pleasing to Him.

Finally, the very evening I wrote the above text, I was cycling home from chapel in the dark when a twig caught in my tyre. I pulled it out, but a thorn had lodged therein, the inner tube nicely punctured. Mercifully, I cycled the remaining two miles with no issue, but the next day, the tyre was flat, the bicycle immobile. That little thorn (top picture) rendered my bike out of action and me once again dependent upon the principles of internal combustion. A little thorn, yet so much damage. A little sin, yet so much condemnation. Eating a fruit ruined a world, and ignoring the gospel devastates an eternity.