July 28, 2008

Biking along a spiritual path

A few friends know that I am mentally gearing up to take my recumbent trike to the meetinghouse sometime this biking season.

A trike like this is fun to ride, but recumbent bikes and trikes are known to be more difficult to get up a hill, in part because you can't stand on the pedals and use your body weight to keep up your momentum. Add to that the weight of the trike (about 35 pounds, a few more pounds than a conventional bike) and the fact that, when going up an incline, the rider's own body weight is "dragging" at the back of the trike, while the rider's legs are doing an awful lot of work to "pull" the rider and machine up the hill.

On top of that, the four miles of primary roads to the meetinghouse are hilly and therefore daunting to a recumbent trike rider like me.

Nevertheless, because I enjoy the trike so much and am slowly working my up to one-way trips of three or more miles (did I mention that I was a novice biker who has poor lower body strength? Three miles is currently considered a long trip for me...), I have been intentional when I drive to meeting to look for alternate roads that might somehow magically get around those hills.

After about a month of "paying attention," I think I finally hit on a route, and I decided to test drive it by car the other day on the way to Meeting for Worship. My plan was to pay careful attention both to general dips and inclines in the road as well as the turn of the odometer on the dash.

As I turned off the main road and made the first significant detour away from a major hill, I saw a ways down the road that there was a recumbent bike farther along, maybe three blocks ahead of me. As I approached the next turn off, the biker signaled a left turn, which is where I was headed, too.

It was only one or two more blocks before I'd be turning right, and the biker was going at a good clip, so I didn't rush to pass in such a short distance. Then the biker signaled a right turn also, turning just in front of me as I reached the same intersection.

I wondered if this person was headed to Quaker meeting.

In fact, he was.

In fact, he was one of a number of Friends in meeting who rides a recumbent bicycle.

In fact, as the biker took his right turn, I realized it was none other than Paul L.

I grinned: I felt like I received confirmation that this indeed would be an adequate biking route to meeting, especially for recumbent riders.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

During Meeting for Worship, I reflected on the turns I had taken this morning and the joy I felt at seeing Paul. It was as if he had been companioning me all along, even though I had yet to push myself and bike to the meetinghouse on my own.

I also considered how, so often we take our usual path to addressing concerns that arise for ourselves, and we so often take our usual problem-solving path in addressing difficulties during meetings for worship with attention to business.

It's easy to see the hills and climbs we have before us: the budget needs to be funded; the capital improvements needed on the building--and paid for; the children's need for a decent First Day School curriculum.

It's easy to consider options we typically draw on, like asking Friends to donate a bit extra this year, or hiring staff to address a long-term need, or asking for Friends to volunteer during some drawn out process where greater attention by the meeting is called for.

But if we are spiritually mature enough, we might be willing to explore new paths that would address the concern while also circumnavigating the obstacles we know are there. If we are spiritually disciplined enough, we might be willing to wait on the Lord until we have that familiar felt sense that indicates there may be a third way opening.

And maybe, just maybe, we will discover that others have traveled along the same path ahead of us and therefore might help guide us and shepherd us along, affirm the direction we are headed, pointing out the killer hills to avoid as well as where there are flats and easier stretches on the path, where we might be able to enjoy coasting, at least for a time...



Anonymous said...

I can't predict the future, but I suspect that soon you will no longer be a novice cyclists with poor lower body strength. :)

Enjoyed the way your experience of finding a fellow Friend on a recumbant bike manifested in spiritual thoughts.


Paul L said...

The spiritual-bicycle connection I've always liked is that, to stay balanced on a bicycle, you have to keep moving -- if you stop rolling the wheels, you'll fall over (eventually, though I've seen people delay the inevitable at stop-lights for a few minutes, but even then they're moving . . . .)

Same thing for spiritual movement an growth: You have to keep moving forward to stay balanced. It's dynamic, not static .

(Not so relevant to a trike-rider, I suppose.)

And yes, I think you did find the best way to ease the climb of the bluff on the east bank of the Mississippi. I'd be happy to ride it with you some time soon.

Anonymous said...

Through teaching people with disabilities to ride bicycles (see www.losethetrainingwheels.com), I've learned that riding is a continuous process of error correction. We pedal along, sense ourselves leaning too far in one direction, then steer in that direction to bring our wheels under us. This process repeats continuously as long as we are on the bike.

As my students learn, they get better at catching their leans and correcting their errors quickly enough so they don't fall all the way down to the ground. For experienced riders, the process is very automatic.

I think there's a parallel to my walk with God in there. I often find myself goofing up and correcting. I also often find myself not correcting and wondering how come I'm on the floor--sometimes with a bruise.

I don't know what the parallel is to the process of steering in the direction of your own error. I also haven't extended these ideas to include tricycle riding.

Jay Thatcher
Corvallis Friends Meeting

Liz Opp said...

Hi, Cath -

I'm definitely getting stronger, it's true. And just the other day, I biked nearly 8-1/2 miles in one afternoon. I hope to bike to the meetinghouse in a couple of days, if the weather holds.

Paul L -

I suppose that each of us will draw our own metaphors from whatever vehicle we use, human powered or otherwise.

And I'll plan to be in touch privately about the possibility of biking together on First Day morning(s).

Jay -

Thanks for adding your own experience and metaphor to the conversation. Yes, I agree that much of life is about error correction, bit by bit, and then staying (on) the course as long we are able.

I have to say, since a trike has three wheels, and since none of them are aligned with any other, I encounter many more bumps in the road than the more conventional cyclist might.

And I really don't want to look at what THAT says to me about the spiritual path I'm on! smile