I wrote recently about a trail biking outing I had last weekend. If you haven’t read that one yet, you can go to it by scrolling down or by clicking here. Just promise me you’ll be right back to read this one.
I’m fresh off the trail of yet another adventure with some good friends who have sucked me into enjoying trail biking. After surviving last week’s helmetless ride, I was pleased to find out that today my friend “Todd” did in fact have an extra helmet for me.
In this small gaggle of 2-wheeled friends, there seems to be a few different categories we can be broken down into: those who have clickety-clack shoes (the kind that attach their feet to the pedals), there are those who have nifty “Camelbak” backpacks (the kind that have the hose that comes up to your lips), there are those with cushy padded seats, there are those that have a GPS attached to their handlebars, there are those with really, really nice bikes (the kind from the specialty bike shop), …and then there’s me.
This past week, emails were passed back and forth amongst all of us as to what the ride plan was for this morning’s ride. Various people chimed in on if/when they’d be available and for how long they’d like to ride. It was determined that there would be “short riders” and “long riders”. Needless to say, I’m a “short rider” and proud of it. And I was under the impression that there would be one or two other short riders with whom I could share solidarity and camaraderie. When I arrived, I quickly found out that I was, in fact, the only short rider.
This is where the plot thickens.
Undaunted by my position of sole short rider, we all hit the trail with the understanding that at some point (at which “Todd” would inform me), I would detach from the group and head back while the other riders kept on going for their “long ride”. So, at the appointed time and at a fork in the trail, “Todd” gave me instructions as to how to get back from where we came. I assured them that I’d be fine and to enjoy the rest of their ride, and we parted ways.
Remember when I told them that “I’d be fine”? Turns out, I wasn’t.
I thought I was following “Todd’s” instructions to the letter (and part of me will go to the grave believing I was), but instead of ending up where I wanted to be, I ended up on the muddy banks of a pond with no discernible trail. Alone. I whistled “Singing In The Rain” as loudly as I could so as not to be shot by local hunters.
I decided that swimming across the pond with my bike on my back wasn’t the best choice, so I walked myself back up the rocky hill I had just descended at break-neck speed. I found a park worker blowing some leaves around and asked for a trail map. He didn’t have one, but told me where I could find one. A while later, I found myself with my very own trail map and was not at all shocked to see where I was on the map in comparison to where I wanted to be.
After several more wrong turns and u-turns (yes, I know I had a map but that often makes no difference when you’re me), I finally found the path I originally wanted and successfully made my way to the parking lot where my trusty minivan awaited me. As I pulled up to my van, and hoisted my bike up onto the bike rack, I heard a familiar voice, “Jerry?” It was the guru of our group. We’ll call him “Martin”. He, along with the rest of the “long riders” had just returned from their long ride, not 60 seconds after I returned from my “short ride”. As it turned out, I too took a “long ride”. The only difference was that I did it alone.
Going it alone can be peaceful. I really did enjoy the quiet of the woods. Going it alone can be relaxing. I really did enjoy not feeling the pressure of having to “keep up” with a larger group. Going it alone can be lots of things that might qualify as desirable. However, I was reminded today that “going it alone” isn’t at all what God created us for.
Many people in our society bristle when they hear the word “religion”. There’s an online video that has recently gone viral in its popularity that bears that out. And I don’t think it’s so much the “religion” per se, but rather the “organized religion” aspect of it all. Which leads so many to refer to themselves as “spiritual, but not religious”. I’ve spoken with more people than I can remember that seem to think that a “its just me and God, so leave us alone” mentality can fit nicely into God’s plan for His people, laid out in Scripture. I’ve spoken with people that say of themselves, “Oh, I’m a Christian, I’m just not a ‘church‘ kind of Christian” which to me is just like saying, “Oh, I’m happily married and I love my spouse, I just don’t like to ever be around them or have anything to do with them.”
Jesus told us that He’s the “head of the Church” (Eph. 5:23) and His followers are “the body” (Col. 1:18). But there seem to be “Christians” that think they can cut off the Head from the Body and still make it work. I’ve seen plenty of amputees; people who have lost fingers, a hand, an arm, an ear, or a leg. I saw a guy once with no arms and no legs and he seemed to somehow be doing just fine and dandy. But I have yet to see someone lose their head and still make things work. There’s no way to lose your head and simply get a prosthetic, go through physical rehab and make it work. But in a spiritual sense, lots of people are trying.
Just like me at the fork in the trail today, as I assured the others and myself, “I’ll see ya on the flippity-flip!” Sure, I had my helmet, sure I had my trusty Schwinn from Walmart, sure I had my water bottle (my only after-market addition), and sure I had Jesus. But what I didn’t have was the fellowship that–in all likelihood–would have saved me from countless wrong turns, lost time, lost energy, and who knows what else.
Just as important as your connection to Jesus as the Head is, so is your connection to Jesus’ Body, the Church. Don’t make excuses, don’t think you’re stronger alone, don’t think “I’ll be just fine.” When Jesus called you to Himself, He called you into community with His body.
Now let’s ride.