Guided by Team in Training, as well as a group of local friends committed to raising funds to fuel research for blood cancers, I am in the midst of logging more cycling miles than I ever have in my life. The culmination of our training takes place on June 4th in Lake Tahoe. Aptly named America’s Most Beautiful Ride, I can’t wait to experience the gorgeous scenery and adrenaline-driven crowd of cyclists. In the meantime, I just need to be on my bike, preparing as well as I can with no mountains or altitude here in Dallas. It means hours on the saddle. (Ouch! It hurts in multiple ways!)
This week, as I was preparing for my longest ride yet, I asked a few friends to pray for me, my safety and stamina. As well, I offered to pray for them while I was riding. As expected with my closest friends, I received an encouraging response, as well as several prayer requests. Almost immediately, I felt nudged by God to ask others for their requests too.
“Weird,” I thought. “It’s a weird request, and people will think I’m weird for asking. It’s ALL weird. Everything about it…(pause)…but I will be on my bike for six hours, and I’m kind of dreading it.”
My thoughts continued, “Nobody will even want prayers, and I probably already know all the important requests for my friends. And. It’s weird to just throw something like that ‘out there’ more publicly. (Erin, are you getting how weird this might be?!?!”)
I continued to argue with myself and this notion that was placed on my heart. “Could it be God prompting me? Why THIS? Why NOW? Why ME?”
“But I will be on my bike for hours,” my thoughts conceded, “and I have nothing to do but pedal.” Even more, “I don’t want to think about how physically uncomfortable I’m going to feel on a bike for this long, and I don’t want to focus on how hard it’s going to be.”
I considered to myself, “Maybe, just maybe, this was a way to re-focus my thoughts; turn a negative dread into a positive encouragement. Maybe, the Lord DOES work in mysterious ways, and maybe this could be really cool…”
So I sent the email. Blasted it, actually, to two large email groups within our neighborhood.
Within seconds of sending it, my phone started blowing up with new text messages. PRAYER REQUESTS. Many, from people I don’t even know. All with a genuine appreciation that someone had offered to their support.
I was joined by a friend and cycling teammate for the first three hours of my ride. We marveled as the number of text messages kept accruing. For the second three hours of the ride, I prayed. Continuously. I prayed for every single request, and then some. I prayed for friends, strangers, neighbors, their friends and family. I begged the Lord to hear me and to help these people I was lifting up to Him. It became such a welcomed distraction and a sheer joy to focus on others and to forget that I was pushing my body so much harder than normal.
It actually was a GIFT to me. And a privilege.
As I reflected later in the day (admittedly during an Epsom salt bath to relieve the soreness and extreme muscle fatigue,) several key points became very clear to me.
Prayer connects people.
Regardless of specific religious practice, most people seem to believe in the power of prayer. Most people acknowledge the existence of a Higher Power and even concede that He has power beyond our own, limited human control. Even though we may disagree on other things in life, this seems to be a uniting point, for the most part. It has value. It’s a way we can stand and fight for something together. It bonded me to so many people that day.
This experience also helped me, personally, to disconnect from the notion that I might be powerless to help in some situations. I tend to be an activator by design. I’m a do-er. I love to help! Give me a helpful, tangible task that will make your life easier. Pick up your kids, bring a meal, get your mail, visit you in the hospital? I’m on it!!! But I needed the reminder that prayer is also an incredibly helpful thing to do! While it might not immediately alleviate a need, it does have power, it does help and it is something I can always do!! (Why don’t I offer this up more often?!) Prayer might not be tangible, but it IS helpful. Others assuredly agree, or they wouldn’t have asked for it. It did something for them, and it did something for me too.
We all need help.
I received WAY more texts and emails than I had expected. I was surprised, to say the least, by the volume of people asking for support. The requests gave me a glimpse into the pains, concerns and fears of my friends and neighbors, and I suspect their issues are not unique to our small sub-section of population. Of course there were specific medical conditions, but actually, those were only a small portion of the requests sent to me. The majority, instead, were requests about pre-teen and teen kids, their well-being, school environment, friends and identities….and parenting through all of it. It was a resounding majority, and LOTS of parents are feeling similar to me — desperately wishing for clarity today that it all ends well someday…but we just don’t have guarantees. And, the journey through all of life’s lessons – all the ups and downs and winding roads – is hard. So hard. Almost as hard as growing up!
There’s a lot of fear and a whole lot of finding our way for both kids and their parents. So…we need each other and a whole lot of prayer to get through. We WILL get through, I’m sure…but the ride can be wild, and it’s ok to ask for help. In a weird way, I, too was comforted knowing that our family wasn’t the only one (as it can feel sometimes) going through so many of these challenges. I was reminded that I’m not walking this road alone and it’s helpful to support each other as we journey.
Prayer deepens our connection to God.
I wasn’t excited about being on my bike for six hours. I was dreading it, actually. It’s a LONG time to be sitting on a hard, tiny seat, and if you think the padded cycling shorts remove all the discomfort, I’d like to take the time now to rebuke that myth. It’s wrong. After a period of time, it just hurts, regardless. In all the wrong places. (Sorry, but it’s true.) Add to that muscle fatigue, fighting dehydration and loss of electrolytes, and then there was the gusty wind that afternoon. Nope! It was HARD to feel good about the whole thing.
In the sweetest way, He guided me to take my eyes off of myself. He prompted me to focus on others. He totally changed my thinking about six hours with “nothing to do,” and He gave me a much greater purpose than completing seventy-five miles.
I literally forgot about myself and my own issues.
He turned my attention to Him. He reminded me of His great power and His great love for us. He caused me to consider His omniscience, His design for us and His extraordinary grace. It comforted me, brought me joy and even energy! Ultimately, it made me fall even more deeply in love with Him….and to think that time in prayer not only brought me closer, but served others too? His Goodness is so much more than I can even take in!
Sure, I have tenderness from my ride — my leg, glute and back muscles and my “seat region”…but most importantly, my heart. My heart is more tender to my Savior and more tender to my community. It’s more tender to seek out others; more tender to bring light to dark places; more tender to run to Him for protection, guidance and care.
I had planned for my ride, and I had prayed for it too. I had goals and expectations. I had purpose, but it was so much more than the simple mileage purpose I had originally thought. When I finished, I rejoiced. It wasn’t just about me. It was about so much more. It was about love, connection and trust. It wasn’t about a bike at all. It was beautiful time with God. I had no idea in the beginning. In the end, I look back and think He knew all along.
He is good. He loves us. He works in mysterious ways. And He sure makes the most of a great conversation too. Talk to Him and see how He moves. It will be way more than endurance training miles. He’ll move your thinking, your heart and perhaps even your life, if even just a little. It will matter a whole lot.