A Bent Fork in the Trail

I haven’t wiped out on a bike since I was about 11-years-old, and was doing something stupid. As of today, I can’t say that anymore. I went for a ride with my friend, Marc, an expert mountain biker. I learned something about Marc. And I learned something about myself.

The trail we rode today was what Marc calls a “technical” trail. That means there are lots of twists and turns through very narrow passages in the woods. It means that tires can get caught in crevasses, handlebars can get hooked on trees, and bodies can fall off of bikes. Let’s just say this is the first time in my life I really needed a helmet. I fell off of my bike three times, one of which was a “header” into roots and stones.

As I write this, I’ve got a cut and two bad scrapes on one leg; a bruise on the other leg; a cut on my finger; a sore shoulder; a small headache; a scrape on my neck; and a sore sternum (which is a recurrence of an “old football injury”…no lie!). And that’s just my body.

That wipeout wasn’t too kind to my bike, either. It seems I may have bent the front fork. Marc said, “That’s pretty impressive.” I was proud. Then we finished the rest of the loop, which concluded with an uphill climb so steep that I felt every last one of my 47 years. But because my fork was bent, I couldn’t go on anymore. So Marc went and rode with a friend of his we had passed on the trail. I went home to nurse my wounds.

Here’s what I learned about Marc: Marc models the kind of leader, the kind of pastor, the kind of friend I would like to be. As we started, Marc said, “If at anytime you need me to slow down, just let me know. I have no problem doing so.” He put me, the amateur, at ease, and made me feel comfortable. I don’t know how much he was keeping it slow for me, but I seemed to be able to stay with him pretty well.

Not only that, but Marc was out ahead of me, vocally warning me about muddy spots, sharp turns, and narrow passages. I found out how nice it is having someone out in front leading and guiding the way. He even taught me things I had never known about being a good mountain biker. They are skills I hope to use again soon to improve my rides.

Marc was also able to temporarily fix my bike well enough so that I could finish the trail. A leader that has knowledge and technical skill is a true blessing. When things go wrong and broken stuff gets easily fixed (temporary or not), it keeps everything moving toward the goal of the finish line.

A good leader, a good pastor, a good friend, puts people at ease; goes out ahead to guide the way, warn of danger, and improve skill; and, to the best of his ability, keeps things moving toward the goal. That’s the kind of person I want to be. It’s the kind of person Marc is.

Here’s what I learned about myself: After Marc left to ride with his friend, I sat in the car and took stock of all of my injuries, my broken bike, and my wounded ego. I deduced that everything was OK. Then, before I even left the parking lot, I decided that I wanted to ride the trail again. Soon.

That trail will not conquer me. I want to improve my skill. I have the deep desire to improve. I want to one day lead someone else through those trails. I want to be able to feel the accomplishment of successfully finishing without falling. And I’d like, one day, to help someone else accomplish that, as well. Something deep inside of me is screaming: “Never say die!”

I want to adopt that attitude for my personal life, my professional life, and in my vocation as a pastor.

What have you experienced lately that has shaped the way you work, or lead, or live?  Please let me know. I’d love to learn from it, too.

Now…excuse me while I go take my bike into the shop.

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14 thoughts on “A Bent Fork in the Trail

  1. "To ride or write?" that is the question. I'm confident you'll make the write decision! 😉

    Thanks for sharing life and faith lessons.

  2. I like. How about swinging at slow pitch softball in front of the 8th graders (the classic annual game of 8th graders against faculty) and missing (I never miss the ball!), twisting and torquing your body into the ground, and breaking your toe. Getting old.

    Your biking sounds more exciting and challenging. I like the analogy of leadership.

    • For goodness sakes, you are forty-seven years young. You are hardly begun in middle age. Old is a matter of the mind, and thinking old will make you old. Your body is already recovering in a marvelous way . . . moreso because you are YOUNG. Glad you are healing and that your spirit is good. We're looking forward to doing the seventeen mile Three Lakes trail next week. Blessings. G & G

      • I assure you that I had my tongue firmly planted in cheek when I wrote that. I'm still running every day and out riding, too. It just takes a little longer to recover than it used to…

        Have a great ride next week!

  3. Just returned from Camp Matz in Bethesda… has once again made me re-think life and contemplate all that I have that I need to consider a blessing… putting my own clothes on my back, tying my shoes, feeding myself, getting my own cup of water, opening my own bottle of juice, walking myself to the restroom.. in addition, I've almost completed a book about a boy who started an organization in which people shoot free throws and raise money to help orphans who are victims of AIDS in Africa. The book has resparked my interest in my life dream. I have a renewed sense of passion for it, and I am feeling very refreshed after being out of a city for a week. Don't think I am ready to be back, however..
    Good post, Tom. I hope your wounds heal and your heart remains close to God…

    • Renelle: So glad to hear about your awesome experiences! Can't wait to have your creative energy back in the building. Big things are in store at Mt. Calvary this year…and you will be the catalyst for some of them. Rest up…you're going to need it! 🙂

  4. In all the years I've been biking, I never ride without a helmet. One time, when I was visiting the Ainsworths in Richfield, my rear wheel caught the edge of a pothole on Lilly Rd. in the Falls. My helmet was trashed and I had some torn handlebar tape, but I still made it to Ainsworths. That's the value of wearing a helmet.