John Denver once caroled that he was “born in the summer of his 27th year”. (I can never resist a good Denver reference. My family and I are unwavering disciples.) Despite his non-explicit religious associations, I think, in his own “Denver-esque” way, that he was actually exhorting us to something deeper than enjoying good music. I think that there is a message here that endured long before 1975 and will endure long after the last of my fellow Denversonians perish from this Earth. On this Easter, we celebrate the dying and rising of Christ; while Christ’s Resurrection was literal, material, and pervasive, we have only glimpses of the power of His Resurrection in this life. We won’t have the real thing until our deaths. That doesn’t mean though that we can’t prepare ourselves for it in this life—most especially at this season.
Biking for Babies prepares its participants for it during each day of the ride. They die to a lesser version of themselves and must rise to a new one each day. Yes, the rider or crew member may be more physically tired than the day before, but they know that they must make another part of themselves tougher in order to persevere. In the midst of their physical destruction, they must build and discover within themselves a spiritual and mental network that harkens sermons, night time prayers, coaches, private conversations with the Lord, parents, impossible ideals. As such, that lingering, undiminishing material destruction within them is replaced by an unshakeable and enduring fortitude.
Each day and each year of the ride, all participants, riders and support crew take part in this kind of resurrection. There is no way that they could experience success in this mission otherwise. One story, in particular, of this requisite dying and rising comes to mind though:
In 2011, Kevin Biese first joined the ride as a young sophomore from the University of Wisconsin that Jimmy Becker had recruited through his work as a FOCUS missionary. He was fit and knew the ride would be tough; but that year, though, his heart and spirit would be just a little bit bigger than his body.
Near the conclusion of the first day—a short one of just 85 miles between northern Louisiana and southern Mississippi—Kevin’s wheel caught Stacy Hague’s, and he skidded against the asphalt in a small crash. Temporarily discouraged, but not out, he finished the last 13 miles experiencing various iterations of bodily pain (and likely blocking out the impending reality that we had 5 more states to cross). After a heart-to-heart over the phone with his girlfriend at the time (now wife and fellow parent!), he found within himself the capacity to die to himself even further than he thought able… and managed to complete the next 4 days under his own power.
The second to last day was an even greater Draconian effort for all members of the team. We would cover 230 miles—between Union City, Tennessee and Effingham, Illinois between sun up and sun down. Kevin endured for as long as he could, but finally laid himself inside of the support van when we still had 50 miles to go. He died to himself in a different, and maybe even more profound way that afternoon. He learned that his heart could only take him so far—in this case, Mount Vernon, Illinois. And, each day over the next year, he resolved to build his body to the extent that he would be able to complete all 1,100 miles under his own power the following summer.
Kevin could have blown off the ride—deciding that, to honor women and families and the unborn and prolife workers in this way was just too much, too unreasonable; rather, he identified the weaknesses within himself that had to be overcome, over the course of a year, in order to offer the full physical sacrifice that he felt called to respond to in Biking for Babies. And that resurrection of himself did not end at that ride. He has now biked over 5,000 miles for pro-life efforts and is now the leader of the team that will travel this year between Chicago and Memphis between July 13th and 16th.
Imagine if we all responded like Kevin did to the trials in our life? Imagine if, instead of throwing up our hands at the distance between our capabilities and the power and preparation that a situation called for, we responded like Kevin did? With long, careful preparation of body and mind and spirit?
To experience this complete dying to our weaknesses we do not experience until death; but, we can get a taste of it that can resonate across our whole physical and spiritual lives in the same way as Kevin’s.
It’s too late to sign up to ride or support this year, but it’s never too early to start preparing yourself for next. You just have to ask yourself… are you ready to die and rise?