Sacrifice and suffering. Two words that our culture actively tries to avoid and two words that many Christians hear, but refuse to respond to. It took long prayerful discernment on which – of the many – Bible verses to open this reflection up with. I finally landed a quote from our Lord himself:
“Then [H]e said to all, ‘if anyone wishes to come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” // Luke 9:23.
And then to follow it up by one of my all time favorite C.S. Lewis quotes:
“I didn’t go to religion to make me “happy.” I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” God in the Dock
I was 18 years old and had completed 500 miles of our 860-mile journey from New Orleans, LA to Champaign, IL. It was my first year with Biking for Babies and it was beyond obvious at this point in the ride that I was the weakest link. My first Biking for Babies was more of an athletic endeavor in my mind than a Christian retreat. God was about to change that when on day 6 Mike came to the team with a decision to be made.
We had not secured any lodging between Union City, TN and Effingham, IL (230 miles apart on our bike route), so we had to decide if we were going to pay for a hotel in a city on our route to Effingham, OR the oh-so-brilliant option of biking 230 MILES in one day to Effingham. I’m assuming you can tell where I stood on this topic…
and I was the only one.
Everyone was hootin’ and hollerin’ about how we could take a rest day in Effingham on Sunday and take the time to go to church, pray, and meditate on our ride thus far. My plea to make tomorrow’s ride shorter fell on deaf ears. We ended up making that 230-mile day a special day where we posted a video challenging our donors to “give a little extra” like we were.
Even with that…I was not amused…in fact, I was upset enough that I wore my UW-Madison biking jersey instead of my sweat-stained, cotton Biking for Babies t-shirt (I love how mature I was back-in-the-day).
I got on the bike that morning and made it a point that I was going to finish the day despite my youth and inexperience – I’ll show them. As the norm, the group – minus myself – prayed multiple rosaries, Our Fathers, and various songs and reflections.
I was focused.
I was drafting the best I had all trip, climbing hills with more efficiency, and eating/drinking the perfect amount. Me, myself, and I was going to do this. 100 miles passed quickly, and 150 miles seemed like a flash. Then, we were 170 miles in – the longest we had ever biked in a day up to that point. And then around 190 miles, I found myself in a familiar place – the back of the riding line. And then around mile 193, I was a good 40 feet behind Jimmy who prayed for me and encouraged me to no avail.
It was the first time in my life where my body could not do what I was asking it to do.
My speedometer read 16MPH, and we needed to go 20…I saw Jimmy coming back to talk to me, and in that moment, I was so mad. Here I was, on a fundraising event to help the Women’s Care Center of Madison and God couldn’t give me the strength to keep up. I was doing this for Him after all!
…Or was I?
I remember this day so well, because it was the day that my view on Biking for Babies changed forever.
Jimmy finally slowed down enough, and with tears in my eyes, I told him I couldn’t keep up. I tried drafting off him one last time while he prayed, and I touch 18MPH before my speed just dropped.
I hugged him and got in the car so that he and the rest of the team could finish what they started. I sat in that passenger seat and couldn’t feel a single part of my body.
I’ve never felt my body weight so distinctly in a chair before.
Our support crew driver looked at me and said, “I’m sorry you had to get off the bike.” I don’t remember responding right away as I watched our team race the plummeting sun in the distance.My body was defeated but my mind was racing.
Those people on the bike, they were STILL praying, still laughing, and still singing. Their bodies were cut, sunburned, and as sore – if not sorer – than mine.
We got to our destination and the bikers screamed with excitement as they dove off their bikes into the grass as if it were a California King mattress. I watched as our support crew driver gave them high fives and plenty of refills while the only sounds that could be heard were their breathing and the crickets as day had made its full transition to night.
In that itchy grass all covered in sweat, dirt, and bugs, those riders were at peace and filled with joy.
I wish I could say that it was a voice from heaven, or an image in my daze that prompted the switch. But it was this sight that made me realize that I had not found my “cross” yet. And, believe it or not, at that time I didn’t think my cross would exist in Biking for Babies. (If you’ve read previous blog posts of mine, you know what prompted me to join Biking for Babies again after my debacle of a first trip.)
Those riders did something that I had never had the opportunity to do in my young Christian life. They were able to be witnesses to the sacrifice – and suffering – that Christ calls ALL Christians to engage in “daily” (Luke 9:23).
The miles matter because if my first year with Biking for Babies didn’t push me to my limits, I never would have witnessed what it truly means to sacrifice. The hours of training, the money to travel, the money to buy the bikes and the gear, and the physical toll that many miles takes on your body are the sacrifices that have made up my last 8 years with Biking for Babies.
Could we do a 10-mile, 12-hour biking event and have hundreds of people show up – of course. And for many, this would be a great sacrifice, but one that is fleeting. In this day in age, things are so fleeting, and that is NOT the sacrifice we want to portray. Because raising a child, helping a woman through a difficult pregnancy – these challenges are not fleeting, and I believe our society’s way of making these difficult situations “momentary” is abortion.
Now 30, 40, 50, maybe even 60 young adults from across the country all sacrificing their time, money, and bodies over hundreds of miles for pregnancy resource centers and women they’ve never met…there’s your engaging and long-lasting witness. There is the sign to our country that with every fiber in our body, we believe in the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ so much so that we WILL pick up our crosses and FOLLOW HIM.
And we believe that in Him and demonstrating his sacrificial love that we can, and will, save every baby, woman, man, and family from abortion.
I don’t necessarily pray that your cross to bear lies in Biking for Babies. I do pray that you find your cross. I pray that you find a way to break free from the comforts this world offers and walk the path Christ invites us to walk. I pray that this post stirs something in your soul and calls you to action. I will say this: if your cross lies with Biking for Babies, I know some very joy-filled people that will help you carry it.
Feeling inspired? If you want to learn more about joining us for this national ride, visit www.bikingforbabies.com/national-ride.