Happy Easter! During the last three days, I’ve managed to spend more than 4 hours in church – Good Friday at our multi-denominational church, Easter vigil at a nearby Catholic church, and Easter morning at our church again. During that time, I’ve been reflecting on how my preparation for the Climate Ride intersects with my spiritual life. This is in part because as the Ride grows closer, I’ve been thinking about it more; it’s also because my legs hurt All The Time.
At the root of it, all of my activism is driven by my love for God and my neighbors. As a Christian that draws on a number of different traditions, I find myself drawn to those with a strong social justice aspect. From Catholic liberation to ecological implications of Orthodox incarnational theology, any school of thought that concerns itself with empowering the oppressed and healing the devastated appeals to me. Not surprisingly, these concerns are what lead me to care about climate change. It’s the very epitome of a situation where the actions of those with privilege lead to both social and ecological brokenness.
Unfortunately, I had lost sight of that goal lately. From the weather to work, it has felt as if the world has been against me getting my mileage in. I had gotten very discouraged and told everyone in the near vicinity. Both my mom and Chris in particular got an earful of my complaining. Even the thought of actually doing the Ride inspired fear rather than excitement. Needless to say, time spent on my bike began to seem more like a chore than a joy.
But as I stood around the altar on Good Friday, I reflected on why I was doing this Ride in the first place. I listened to my pastor talk about Jesus’ body being broken on the cross, the ultimate act of vulnerability. The incredible love he showed in that act, even asking for mercy towards his tormentors in his pain. Then, yesterday night and this morning, the Easter resurrection, the cry of “He is Risen!” The cycle of death and rebirth, of the darkness coming and the light returned.
As I stood and knelt through the services, I realized that every stroke downwards, every revolution around the pedals, is the smallest version of that same cycle. The muscles tear in my legs, and yet become stronger as a result. The difficulty of the miles spent on the road will lead to triumph. And all of it, from start to finish, is ultimately driven by love. I started praying quietly, “Lord, please break my body, to build it up again.” The idea of my very body being an offering was refreshing. It brought new focus to my training, new hope to the few weeks left.
It’s not the first time that I’ve linked faith and biking. When I did the AIDS Ride for Life in college, I only trained for 50 miles. Feeling driven at the half-century mark, I drew on spiritual strength to do the entire 100 mile ride. Worship songs ringing through my head and blue skies surrounding me, it seemed as if God could fulfill his promise to move mountains at any time, or at least the hills of the Finger Lakes.
But this revelation was different. Whereas deciding to continue on the AIDS Ride came from a place of success, this came at a time of doubt. No matter how many times Chris tells me that I can do this Ride, that I am strong enough, the voice in the back of my head says, “No, that’s just not true.” In contrast, by the church services reminding me of why I am doing this, it helped me realize that I can do it, will do it. Perhaps not on my strength alone, but on that of God and of everyone else who supports me. The very reality of being a living sacrifice precludes failure.
Although we won’t be climbing any mountains, I can only hope I reflect the truth of this verse during my ride: “How lovely on the mountains / Are the feet of him who brings good news / Who announces peace / And brings good news of happiness (Isaiah 52:7).” Bicycling won’t become a sacrament anytime soon, but for me, it is a holy act.