It was windy when I left home on my bike last Tuesday for a quick midday ride. But the air was clear; no dust.
To be honest, the northwest wind was significant and I knew I’d have to fight it the entire way, but I’d been dormant long enough. I needed to move.
I road my regular route to GreenTree only to discover the main boulevard was being rebuilt. Half the road in both directions had been scraped down to the caliche base, meaning if I wanted to go my regular route I’d have to bump across a three-inch deep canyon and dodge giant road-building equipment. I was certainly on the wrong bike for that sort of thing, so I modified my route using the unaltered roads and found the distance I was looking for.
“The wind shows us how close to the edge we are” … Joan Didion
Pleased with my problem solving ability and manly wind-fighter legs, I headed back home on Wood Street. About two blocks east of Midland Drive I looked to the northern horizon and saw an epic Dust-Bowl-Days wall of sand blowing toward Midland. It was frightening, so the first thing I did was stop and take a photo, since no difficult task or situation goes undocumented nowadays. Then, I stood up on my pedals and took off for home. Could I make it home before the sand overtook me? We’d soon find out.
A couple of drivers slowed as they passed me, lowering their windows and shouting advice while pointing at the approaching storm, assuming, I suppose, I hadn’t noticed it or else I wouldn’t be out riding. They wanted to talk to me, but I had no time for conversation. I was in a race against nature.
I almost made it. I was about a half-mile from my house when the headwind and sand hit me full on, instantly dropping my speed from 15 mph to 7 mph.
“You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone born from above by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.” (John 3:8, The Message)
Here’s the thing: It makes no sense to complain about the wind or sand. Having lived in West Texas for 53 of my 61 years, I have no excuses. Only a fool would be surprised about something as permanent and persistent as the wind. I either keep my bike in the garage until perfectly calm days, which are few, or take on the challenge.
I use to dream of a laminar-flow life where my projects flowed smoothly through the days and weeks in unbroken parallel streams with no turbulence, like cycling on a dead-calm day. That seemed ideal to me. Who wouldn’t want a life like that?
However, through the years I’ve learned most of my creativity comes from turbulence. That’s why I write so much about struggle and hard work. I doubt I’d have much to write if life suddenly went laminar. After an essay or two about how peaceful I felt, I would be done.
And I often hear people complain about the roller coaster nature of life, the constant up and down, over and over. But a roller coaster on flat level ground wouldn’t be much fun. I doubt we’d ride more than once.
My pursuit of God is born in turbulence, too. I’m afraid I would forget about God if I didn’t have to beg Him for help on a regular basis, every time I felt the wind and sand in my face.
Had I known the wall of sand was eminent I wouldn’t have gone riding last Tuesday. But I’m glad I did.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32