We wish people an easy trip, because we would never wish them a tough one. No one wants tough things to happen, no one. But easy without tough doesn’t fulfill us like we might expect.
I used to ride my bicycle everywhere. As an adult, I decided to improve my physical prowess and strengthen my heart through regular bicycle riding. Often I rode on flat ground with no problems. Near my home, however, stood one of the few steep hills. I thought it might be interesting to try to climb.
One day, I made my first attempt, a dismal attempt at best. I had ridden approximately 30 feet when my thighs burned so thoroughly I could no longer rotate the pedals, I had to stop. How frustrating!
I could ride for miles upon miles on flat ground, but one little bump and I stopped. That hill taunted me. No matter how strong other people told me I was, I knew I’d never feel strong if I couldn’t climb the hill.
It became a goal. I’d make attempts at climbing it, little by little, first 30 feet, then 50, then 100 feet. Progressively, I improved. The thighs still throbbed and caused me outrageous pain, but my ability to handle the pain increased. One day while pedaling through the pain, I finally made it to the top. The bike and I ascended the top of the hill for a moment and then my speed increased. The pedals became looser.
I found myself barrelling down the hill on it’s opposite side with more speed than I had ever travelled. It felt extraordinary.
My heart lightened, my skills kicked in, it felt like the joy of rest mixed with the exhilaration of being in a race at the lead, yet it was effortless. I just had to hold on and steer. The down hill glide made every painful stroke during the climb worth more than I had imagined.
When I think of peace, this is where my heart goes. Fearless, confident, and purposeful gliding through an instant in life where I earned the rest and joy of the moment.
Another bicyclist I knew approached hills in a completely different way. He’d travel to an extreme mountain, take a large lift up the hill and ride down hill. He often told me how much he loved the extreme downhill rides, but his words fell flat on my ears.
He didn’t know the thrill of earning it. He never felt the peace of success wash over him. He felt a less complete alternative.
I wonder if that’s what it’s like for sailors when they hear people like me hollowly wishing someone, “smooth sailing.” If all our life were a ride on smooth flat seas, how boring that would be, like living in dead waters. Only after having living through storms can we really appreciate the well earned calm of unwavering flat water, the beauty of smooth sailing.
Jesus knew this truth all too well.
As He prepared His disciples for what would happen to Him on the cross, Jesus said these words,
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33)
The world jostles us around like the restless sea, it stresses our muscles and causes us pain like my uphill bike ride. Jesus is the glide down hill. He provides the moments of smooth sailing we so desperately need after a storm. He’s stronger than the hill or the storm, He is, after all, the guy who spoke a couple words to stop the waves from stressing out His storm weary disciples. He can do that for us too.
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