Journal entry 051211: Closing the gap

This is one of my favorite Bible verses: “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires.” (Psalm 37:4 NLT) Unfortunately my heart’s desires seldom square with my own performance.

I was reading “A Hidden Wholeness,” by Parker J. Palmer, and he wrote, “As the outer world becomes more demanding … the more we stifle the imagination that journey requires. Why? Because imagining other possibilities for our lives would remind us of the painful gap between who we most truly are and the role we play in the so-called real world.”

Friday morning I went out early on my bike, hoping to get in a significant ride before the wind got bad. Since I’m on Kevin Duty Saturday mornings, I try to work in my long rides or long runs on Friday. For me, a long ride is 25-30 miles, and I was planning to ride from my house west through neighborhoods, eventually finding my way to Highway 191. I knew if I rode all the way to Mid-Cities Church before turning back home I would get in a good 27 miles.

I discovered during the first mile that my plan to beat the wind failed. I left the house at 8:00 AM and the wind was already howling from the southwest. My bike is a hybrid, meaning narrow tires but straight handlebars, so I have few aerodynamic riding options. Mostly I just keep going. I remind myself that since we don’t have hills around Midland riding into the wind is the toughest thing I can do.

I was pushing past Grasslands toward the Highway 158 cutoff when I noticed two cyclists coming up behind me. I’m used to being passed, whether riding or running, so it was not surprising that they gained on me. As the two women passed, one of them said, “Good morning, sir. Good ride.” I was hoping she called me “sir” because of the gray in my hair and beard - it made me feel a little better about being dropped so quickly if I imagined I had 20 years on them.

The two riders ducked under the 158 underpass and headed back toward town, and I thought, “Of course they passed me. They aren’t going as far as I am. I’ll bet they’re headed back to Starbuck’s. Besides, they don’t already have 10 miles in like I do.”

I felt smug and manly for the next three miles because the women turned back and I was still bucking the wind. Until, that is, about a mile before the Mid-Cities turnaround, when I noticed three more cyclists coming up hard behind me. As they got closer I recognized the same two women who’d passed me before. Bummer.

They rolled past me with ease. Apparently they were fighting a different wind than I was. And, they were accompanied by a gray-haired gentleman, at least as old as me, riding a recumbent bike. Not only did they NOT go back to Starbuck’s, they picked up a friend and managed to ride me down a second time. And as I took measure of my defeat I noticed that the three of them rode past the Mid-Cities turnaround, meaning they were also riding further than I was.

It is a hard lesson to realize your best efforts can be exceeded so quickly, almost effortlessly, by someone else. Knowing I am a beginning cyclist and they had lots of miles in their legs, knowing I will get better and stronger and faster as I ride further more often, made me feel a little better. But. Still.

It would be easy to put my bike away with the justification that getting passed so soundly while I was riding my best meant I should stop and try something else. The painful gap, as mentioned by Parker Palmer, between who I really am and who I want to be, might be too wide to bridge.

I remembered a similar incident from the NYC Marathon when I was passed by a guy wearing a pink tutu and juggling three yellow tennis balls. He ran right past me and on down the street, juggling all the way. Even while doing my best I was still passed by a juggling goofy guy.

The thing is, a cycling gap is easy to digest, and more time on my bike will reduce it. The gaps that are more troubling are those between my perception of myself and the reality as a husband, as a father, as a writer, as a teacher.

But if we sit down every time we get passed we’ll spend our entire life in the chair and never on the road. We’ll never experience the journey God has for us. We’ll focus all our energies on the size of the gap rather than on the dreams in our heart. And the world won’t change, and no one will miss us when we’re gone.

Fortunately we are not alone when it comes to closing those gaps. We have the Holy Spirit to help us, and we have each other.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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