I finally got my hands on a road bike, complete with bike shoes, clips and, even matching waterbottles. It’s quite a change going from a hybrid bike in sneakers to trying to bike in a shoe attached to your pedals, but hey, there was a triathlon practice tonight and sometimes the only way to learn is to just go out there and try.
Arriving slightly disheveled, I felt like I was wearing a giant sign on my forehead that said, “newbie.” My chain came undone because I shoved my bike too hard into my backseat in a cursory effort to not be late. I had no idea how to “clip in” and “clip out.” So for ten minutes in the parking lot of Meadowood Park, I was surrounded by three patient, gracious teachers, dependent upon some mercy and grace.
“Let’s make sure you’ve got the hang of using your clips before we leave.”
“But I don’t want to hold you guys back from biking!” I retorted.
“Just practice. And it’s ok if you fall.”
The next painstaking ten minutes were filled with feelings of inadequacy, after all, I must be a complete idiot if I couldn’t even do their most basic instructions: “Just go like this. Press hard. Harder. You’ll hear it click in.” Press, press, turn of the pedal. Still not clipped in. Repeat. Finally, my right foot is in! And, like a kid riding a bike without training wheels, I weebled and wobbled trying to get my left foot clipped in. “You want to start with the right pedal up and give yourself some leverage,” one of them called out as I watched a couple of them demonstrate. I’m moving and inching and pressing my left foot for what feels like an eternity, until finally I hear a coveted “click,” signaling that I was now successfully clipped in on both my left and right sides. I did a small lap around the parking lot and slowed down when I reached my bike-teacher comrades. “No, no keep moving!!” One guy calls out as I attempt to stop without unclipping. Nearly crashing into one of the other cyclists, she moved out of my way and I did another lap, this time focusing on unclipping. After successfully managing that, we were ready to be on our way. This couple who had just finished their evening ride smiled at me. “You’ll love it!” they exclaimed. “You’ll get used to it in no time.” Yeah right… I thought to myself as we took off. I was dreading the two stops we’d have to make at stop signs along our route. Fortunately I was able to clip out in time to stop, but trying to clip in uphill for the first time didn’t go so smooth. After almost taking a fall to my left side, I somehow managed to clip out my left foot, as if a “fight or flight” instinct kicked in. I re-clipped and took a deep breath, soaking in the backdrop of farmland and woods on a summer evening. We finished our ride a short 11 miles later and gathered at the parking lot, where I thanked this group profusely for their patience and their grace.
It was a “God moment” for me. Every moment can be a “God moment” if you choose to see it that way, but there are times when I find God in the most unconventional ways, like through three strangers who give you, the newbie, some patience and grace, which had probably been extended to them when they first started cycling competitively years ago. My pride was a bit shaken, as I humbly found myself really needing to ask questions. Being a fairly decent athlete, it was hard to realize that I possessed a pride that I needed to let go of in order to accept that right now, biking isn’t my strong suit and I don’t have it all together… never have, never will. I felt like God used those fellow bikers that day to show me a tangible example of what it feels like to receive patience and grace and to also remind me that this is exactly what I need to be doing for others too. Perhaps God puts us in situations in which we feel dumb and inadequate so that S/He can teach us to depend on one another, extend patience and grace, and realize we’re all in this together. What’s that saying? No man is an island? Yeah, well, turns out no woman is either. It’s like we all need each other anyways, so we might as well get along and love hard while we’re at it… Elite biker, novice biker, those who never had bikes, and yes even the guy who stole my hybrid bike back in April. A heaping pile of patience and grace? Yes, I’ll take some of that and let’s pass it ‘round, like mashed potatoes circling the table at Thanksgiving. Come on, dig in, find your seat at this table. Because everyone’s invited and everyone receives grace and patience… mashed potatoes optional.