Friday morning I peeled myself from my bicycle seat after an unexpected 50-mile ride, happy to learn I could still walk, and my first thought was actually a prayer - “Thank You God. That ride was a gift.” More often my thoughts after a physically exhausting effort have been, “Thank You for helping me to survive.” That is NOT the same prayer as, “Thank You for speaking into my heart in spite of the exhaustion.”
It wasn’t my first time to feel that way. It’s happened several times before; in my case, usually after completing an epic run.
Once when I was at Frontier Ranch Young Life Camp in Colorado at a Wild at Heart men’s retreat, after an especially eye-opening spiritual breakthrough, I went for a 1-1/2 hour run on the Colorado Trail. The run turned out to be easier and faster than it should have at 9,500’ elevation, and I knew immediately that the ease, success, even delight, was God’s gift to me.
Afterward I stood in the shower as hot water renewed my humanity and prayed - “Thank You for this gift. It was exactly what I needed.” I interpreted the excellent run as a confirmation that I had interpreted the spiritual insight correctly. I had been healed.
I also remember one rainy Monday night when I left the house for a long run at sundown, and finished up 20 miles after midnight. It was great. Running in darkness reduced the distractions and focused my vision to the path immediately ahead of me, like I was running in a cocoon. When I got home I was so full of myself it took me another two hours to calm down enough to sleep - not from the adrenaline, but because I knew, again, that this was a gift from God. It was a reminder that I could do more than I imagine, that I was mighty in spirit, and full of heart. I am not sure if it’s appropriate to beat your chest and howl at the moon during a prayer, but that is the sort of praying I was doing that night.
I felt the same way Friday morning when I got off my bike. I felt blessed.
This particular gift actually started about a year ago when I returned to cycling after a 20-year hiatus. Since then I’ve been riding 2 or 3 times each week. And then, last week, I had an opportunity to buy a road bike, a 2010 Specialized Tarmac Elite, and I was so happy. All the way home after buying the bike I prayed, “Thank You for this gift”.
And even more than the bike itself was what Cyndi did … she made it a point to write a check and pay for the bike from her own checking account. She said, “I know it all comes from the same pile of money, but I want you to know I believe in you.”
Oh man; that was the biggest gift of all: an endorsement. Cyndi was telling me that she understood the value cycling had added to my life, and that she didn’t resent my time away on my bike. I felt like Cinderella Man when his wife said, “You’re the Bulldog of Bergen, and the Pride of New Jersey, you’re everybody’s hope, and the kid’s hero, and you are the champion of my heart.”
So Friday morning was the first extended ride on my new bike. I went out with Todd, Kara, and David, who are all better cyclists than me. I was enjoying my new bike so much I ignored all the opportunities to turn back and shorten the ride. (Before I left, when Cyndi asked, “Don’t they all ride further than you do?” I said, “They aren’t going anywhere I don’t know the way home from. I can short-cut back if I need to.) But I didn’t take any short-cuts, and by the time I got home I had ridden 50 miles, 16 miles further than, as Kevin would say, my previous highest score. I was tired and wasted and glad to be done, but my heart was full. I knew the entire morning was a gift from God.
However, I’ll admit that when I stagger off my bike or collapse on the bedroom floor after running, a casual observer might not consider the word “gift” as their first description. I can’t adequately explain how a difficult run or brutal hike up the mountain or endless bike ride can be a gift from God. Quite often, it isn’t; but sometimes it is.
The best way I can describe it is to compare it to a favorite birthday gift from someone you love, that gift that is so personal it proves the giver knew your heart. Those are seldom the most expensive of the gifts, just the best.
A similar story happened to another cycling friend recently. He was working through a life-changing career decision when he had the best long bike ride of his life. I suggested, “Maybe that was God telling you to follow your heart; His gift to you.”
When God speaks into a hard effort and fills our heart with thanks, that is a definitive and specific and best gift. Has this ever happened to you? How did it happen? How did you know it was a gift from Him? I would like to know your story.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
To learn about Berry’s books, “Running With God,” go to www.runningwithgodonline.com , or “Retreating With God,” go to www.retreatingwithgod.com ,… Follow Berry on Twitter at @berrysimpson or on Facebook … Contact Berry directly: firstname.lastname@example.org … To post a comment or subscribe to this free journal: www.journalentries.org