I realize it’s been some time since I’ve talked about one of my hobbies or passions as it relates to faith. Some you know that during the Summer months I like to bike. I usually bike in the St. Cloud area and go on designated trails. I also like to take a short 3-day bike trip each Summer with some priest-friends as well. I have long since quit biking on regular roads since the advent of cell phones and all the “crazies” out there who drive with their phones in ear and so have made things much more dangerous when it comes to cycling on the shoulder of a highway.
One of the things I notice when I get back on the ‘saddle’ starting in early May is how my body resists doing any kind of strenuous work. After a Winter of relative physical inactivity, when I go on that first ride, it’s as if my body rebels and has a mind of its own! My heart begins to grumble and my legs start to complain saying, “No, I don’t want to do this! I am not going to do this!” Yet, I try to push through it all. As time goes on, however, and after I have been out several times on the trial, pretty soon my heart recovers more quickly and my legs begin to tighten up and respond. By now, in August whenever on I am biking and I encounter a strong wind or an incline and my mind wants to kick it up a notch, my legs simply react at will! By now, my legs are used to the rhythm of cycling and it’s as if they are on ‘automatic pilot.’ It’s a great feeling when your body simply responds at will and you are able to turn it up and hold a continuous speed of 15-17 mph whenever I feel I am starting to slow down. I usually try to go about 20 miles at a relatively constant pace. Don’t get me wrong, I know I am no superstar. I am always amazed at how the cyclists in the Tour de France are able to bike 100s and 1000s of miles with an average of 26 mph and climb mountains of between 3000-9000 ft.! It’s a real testament to what they human body can do and endure!
What’s the spiritual point? My point is this: Our spirits and our souls are much the same as this. When it comes to the spiritual life, it’s important to create a habit of prayer, of going to church, of spending time with God and correcting our actions or thoughts. At first, our souls resist this kind of work and say, “I don’t want to do that!” yet as we continue and push on, these things become much easier, automatic, and second-nature to us! You can’t climb a mountain the first time when you get on a bike for the year and you can’t expect to get through a difficult time if we haven’t conditioned our spiritual self. Priests and monks and nuns throughout our Catholic Church’s history don’t call these “Spiritual exercises” for nothing! We need to condition ourselves and be in constant training so that we can maintain that constant speed on our journey of faith even in hard times. Then and only then do the hills and bumps and wind on the road seem like not-so-much. So, here’s to biking and keeping our self on that spiritual road in good shape and strength!