A friend asked me to bike across the state of Colorado with her and her team for the annual Ride the Rockies.
Despite my first reactions, I joined the team. You can imagine that I was intimidated. What you probably don’t know is that my word for 2018 is “quest” and this ride would certainly be that. Although my true quest this year has been for deeper intimacy with Christ, greater health and more effective leadership—the lessons I would learn on the road would also lead me to those very things if I put them into practice in my life, not just on my bike.
Here are a few reflections I had in the midst of riding 418 miles in 6 days over gorgeous mountain passes. I long to live these out in my relationships, ministry and leadership.
Train with others. I had previously cycled across northern Spain (580 miles over 9 days), but that was 10 years ago and, although it was hilly in Spain, I knew it would take a good bit of training to get ready for Colorado mountains. It was important for me to train with others for this ride and, similarly, it’s key for us to train with others in our Christian walk. I was so privileged to join a team of 14 others as we rode for World Bicycle Relief, and together we raised enough money to provide almost 300 bikes for African students, entrepreneurs or healthcare workers. I definitely could not have accomplished that alone. It’s exciting to be a part of something larger than ourselves.
We aren’t meant to take on life (or biking) alone. It’s awesome to surround ourselves with those who are more in shape than us; they will take us on routes we would otherwise avoid because we think they are too challenging. One of my teammates convinced me to bike up the top half of Pikes Peak as part of our training. 4000 feet of elevation gain over 9 miles! It was so steep that I often had to get off my bike and walk. Though it was painful at the time, I was thankful I had done it because it was steeper than any pass I had to climb on Ride the Rockies.
Ride at your own pace. Each day our team met at the start line, took a picture, and encouraged each other for the day ahead. We would start out together, but as the hills grew bigger each of us would find our own pace. Needless to say, I was not able to keep up with my teammate who rides the Leadville 100 mountain bike race, or the one who won multiple Ironman competitions, or the former Olympic skier. If I would have tried to keep up with them on the hills, my legs would have quickly given out.
Each of us had to find our own rhythm and our own pace. I couldn’t compare myself with them because they had different talents, training, and bodies than me. But how often do I compare myself with others in ministry even though they have different gifts, callings, and experiences than me? Each teammate would complete the day’s miles in a different amount of time, but we each rode the same distance, enjoyed the same gorgeous views, and we celebrated each other’s successes at the end of the day.
Catch your breath. There were aid stations about every 20 miles along the way where you could fuel up with the right nutrition and fluids, but there was also always a chance to stop and take a breather on the side of the road. My goal was to ride all 418 miles of the ride and not have to sag to the next stop or even walk up a hill. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t stop to catch my breath along the way. There were long climbs as we went over mountain passes and it was amazing how much more energy and motivation I had to continue climbing if I just stopped for a minute to breathe, grab a snack, or simply enjoy the view.
In ministry, we sometimes feel like we have to just keep pressing on. Ministry, and anything else of worth, calls for endurance for sure. But I wonder how much more empowered and life-giving our ministry could be if we learned how to take short breaks in the midst of it all. How about a ten-minute prayer walk in the midst of a stressful day? What could a thirty-minute rest in a hammock do for perspective and refreshment?
When I completed this physical quest I was filled with joy and a huge sense of accomplishment! And I also had tangible tools to use in my quest to know Christ more intimately, enjoy greater health and lead more effectively.
Questions to consider:
Who’s on your team?
Who are your spiritual training partners?
Are they stretching you to use muscles/gifts that you wouldn’t otherwise strengthen?
Are there others who you are challenging to spiritually train in ways they wouldn’t do on their own?
Have you found the pace that’s right for you in ministry so that you can go the distance?
In what ways do you struggle with comparing your capacity, speed or skill with others?
How can you celebrate the journey of others and your own journey?
What are some quick pauses you could implement in the midst of your uphill climbs?
How are you refreshed and renewed?
What might become available to you if you were to catch your breath?
Karin Harper is an adventurer. She’s also a Stay Forth Coach and the Discipleship Director at Woodmen Valley Chapel.