I went for a trail run over the weekend. I can’t remember the last time I ran trails, and wow, it was no joke. WAY harder than the road – but so beautiful.
So, there I am, making my way through the trail, barely able to look up for fear of tripping on a root and rearranging my face on a rock – but I MUST look up, lest I rearrange my face on the front tire of an oncoming biker. As these bikers come my way every 8.3 seconds on impressively muddy mountain bikes, I briefly debate which would be easier to maneuver on this trail: my NON-trail-running shoes (which I am wearing), or one of those bikes. Mountain bike for the win; NON-trail-running shoes for the decisive loss.
Until I come upon the person who is most definitely in last place for trail maneuverability and enjoyment.
I’m working my way up out of a dip when I hear, “Oof!” “Ugh!” “Ouch!” I look up and see a girl with a doozy of an “I hate my life” look on her face, slowly bouncing her way down the trail. ON A BEACH CRUISER.
You guys. I do not even have words. A BEACH. CRUISER. I see her pained expression – pure misery – but I can’t bring myself to feel bad for her because SHE IS RIDING A BEACH CRUISER ON A MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAIL. All I can think is, “OMG WHAT IN THE WORLD. I have to write this down.“
What’s crazy though (and kind of sad), is I’d be willing to bet that after this experience, the girl will say she doesn’t like mountain biking. OF COURSE, right!? She TRIED biking on trails, but she doesn’t like it. It’s just not for her. But you know there’s an obvious problem with this conclusion. Yes, she rode on the trails. But she didn’t really mountain bike. She rode a beach cruiser on a mountain bike trail. Which is kind of its own thing. What she doesn’t like is riding a beach cruiser on a mountain bike trail. She may actually find enjoyment in mountain biking. ON A MOUNTAIN BIKE.
From the first push of the pedal, Beach Cruiser Girl didn’t stand a chance – because a beach cruiser isn’t made for the trail. There is a key piece of equipment required for a fighting chance at enjoying mountain biking: a mountain bike.
Here’s what I can’t stop thinking about: How many people have said, “I’ve tried Christianity, but it’s just not for me.” That could be totally accurate. But is it also possible that person is trying to navigate Christianity without the “key equipment?”
If you’re trying to live the Christian life in your own strength, I’m here to let out the big secret to walking with Jesus: there is HELP. Or rather, there is a HELPER. That Helper is the Holy Spirit. And believe me when I say He is CRUCIAL. He is the Helper given to everyone who surrenders lordship of her life to Jesus and chooses to receive the free gift of salvation (free to us; purchased at a high price by Jesus). To attempt to “do Christianity” without the benefit of having surrendered to Jesus, asking Him to reign in your life, and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit – well, frankly, I wouldn’t want to endure that version of Christianity either.
Actually, true confession – I DID endure that version of Christianity – for years. I had received Jesus as my savior, but I had zero clue about the Holy Spirit. I just did my best to pray and make good choices and just kept on doing the best I could, the best I knew how – all in my own strength, my own way. AND IT WAS LIKE RIDING A BEACH CRUISER ON A MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAIL. It was up and down and all over the place and sometimes it was okay but for the most part it was a big journey of frustration and disappointment – all the while, with this deep-rooted suspicion that it wasn’t meant to be that way. And you know what? IT WASN’T MEANT TO BE THAT WAY. The life Jesus came to give us – a full, meaningful, purposeful, joyful, thankful, prayerful life – was never meant to be lived apart from dependence on Him. Daily, moment-by-moment reliance. ON HIM. Jesus said:
“I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
And you must know, I don’t mean a life that’s “full, meaningful, purposeful, joyful, thankful, prayerful” due to lack of pain, disappointment, or heartache. I mean through it.
The folks on the mountain bikes hit all the same dips and turns and creek beds and roots that Beach Cruiser Girl hit. Some of them were really struggling. But when push came to shove, they had what they needed. They had access to all the gears and shocks and doohickies that mountain bikes come equipped with. Because mountain bikes are MADE FOR THE TRAIL
What about you? As you set out on the trail today, on what – or whom – will you rely? Know this: because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross, you have access to all you need. I pray you will receive and experience all that He won on your behalf.
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. (Psalm 42:1-2a)
“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. (John 7:37-38a)