The ride from Beloit to Kenosha was already plotted as the longest leg of the Tour — approximately 80 miles. Our consolation was the knowledge this ride would be less hilly than our swing through the western part of the state. Of course we weren’t expecting an all day wind out of the northeast at 20+ mph (with gusts of 28 mph). The headwinds insured we would barely average 10 mph.
Our slower than expected speeds meant we spent almost 8 full hours in the saddle. At some point today, I gave up calculating the time we would finally arrive at our destination. All I could think about was keeping the pedals spinning, avoiding traffic and making certain the next gust of wind didn’t knock me off the bike. Finally, we arrived safely at our destination. Gathered around a table, sharing stories from the ride and learning about the ministries of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, I briefly forgot about my sore knees, my blistered face and my numb posterior.
The virtue at work in the ride today was perseverance. I would be the first to say this is not a virtue I would have often applied to myself. Certainly, I was taught the value of “finishing what one starts”. Of course, I was cautioned as a child against becoming known as “a quitter”. But the way I most often made sure I was a “finisher” and not a “quitter” was simply never starting anything in the first place.
As I cranked along, one mile at a time, I couldn’t help but think about the way we live this life of faith called “Christian”. We go to worship services. We say our prayers. We cook countless casseroles for covered dish dinners. We talk with fellow disciples. We argue with the texts of Scripture. Or maybe we argue with each other about those same texts! We do service projects. We participate in clothing drives or feeding programs or teaching in the Christian Education time at our local congregation.
We would be the first to say we struggle with faithfulness, but everything in our life underscores the faithfulness we doubt. We worry that we’re not doing enough, but others stand around and are amazed by all that we do get done. We are, quite simply, “persevering”.
Ten days ago, I didn’t know if we could actually accomplish what we were setting out to do. Five hundred miles on a bicycle might have been a bit over-ambitious. But here we are, 70 miles or so from the finish line. Tomorrow, some of us will climb aboard our bikes and set off. We will arrive at our destination (hopefully!) seven hours later in the same way we’ve managed to “arrive” every day of this Tour — one spin of the pedals at a time. And, believe it or not, that’s how Christians persevere — one breath, one prayer, one act of service, one moment, one day at a time.
We don’t have to commit to persevere for the next 10 years. We only have to be faithful for the next 10 minutes…and then the next…and the next…and the…well, you get the picture. Before we know it, we will have lived a life! And what a life it will have been! Thanks be to God!