Bike rider photo

I have a new bike!

Actually it is a second-hand bike I bought from a friend. But it is new to me so I am calling it new.

And since I have now been out on my new bike a total of three times, I think I can officially call myself a bicycler. Or bicyclist. Or whatever they (we) call it.

With the benefit of this extensive experience, I have discovered that there are many benefits to be gained from the “life in the saddle.” Benefits such as an elevated heart rate now and then… feeling the wind whistle through your dorky looking bike helmet while coasting downhill… snazzy Spandex riding attire… and a whole list of secret hand signs you can exchange with others while out on the trail.

There is also an attendant list of hazards that are part of the two-wheeling life… not the least of which involves an unpleasant chafing.

But I won’t dwell on the downside of cycling too much. You will discover all of them soon enough on your own. The more pertinent part of the cycling experience that brings me here today is the surprising and unexpected relationship I discovered between bicycle riding and the spiritual life. Believe it or not. (So I guess I should really list that as another one of the benefits of cycling; it is not such a grueling test of pure physical exertion that your mind is prevented from discovering interesting and whimsical life lessons to be taken from the experience.)

And so… here are the Five Ways Bicycling Is Like the Spiritual Life:

  • There are ups… there are downs… there are flat places.
    Except the experience is exactly the opposite in the bicycle realm and the spiritual realm: the UPS in biking are when you are riding uphill. It is hard, agonizing, you sweat a lot and feel like quitting. The DOWNS are the fun part where you are coasting downhill, zipping along effortlessly and feeling the wind in your face. The UPS in the spiritual life are those rare and unique “mountaintop experiences” of bliss and wonder while the DOWNS are the times when you are low, despondent, and disconnected. The “flat places” are the same, however. Those are the times of extreme uneventfulness and even monotony. They are there to remind us of the value of faithfulness and persistence.
  • The experience is better when it is guided.
    You can head off into the wild, disdaining all paved paths, mile markers, or signs of civilization on your bicycle or spiritual journey. But both are enriched beyond measure when you take advantage of the experiences and wisdom of those who have gone before you. It is not necessary to re-invent either wheel because each journey becomes uniquely yours when you launch out and take it. The pride of the “spiritual swashbuckler” can effectively muffle the encounter with the divine. The humility of the spiritual student leaves an opening for an encounter with God.
  • The experience is better when it is a discipline.
    I could ride this morning, put my bicycle away for six months and then get it out and ride it again. Chances are I would have to spend a lot of time relearning some of the basics, tuning up the bike, strengthening neglected muscles, and wondering why this outfit doesn’t fit anymore. The overall result would likely leave me hostile to the entire undertaking and unwilling to repeat it again anytime soon. Engaging the spiritual journey erratically or episodically has the same effect. In each instance it is about maintaining and improving the health of a system. Neglect has never been a good way to improve the health of anything.
  • The experience is good with companions.
    We can – and often do – ride alone. Similarly we often engage spiritual practices in a solitary way. It is just like the Easter spiritual reminds us, “Oh, nobody else can walk it for you… you have to walk it by yourself.” But when we are occasionally able to make a connection with another who is on the journey, we find support, encouragement, and enrichment.
  • It is better when we go slower.
    Since my first extended bike ride was not that long ago, the experience is still fresh on my mind. I remember being amazed at how many more elements of the passing scenery I noticed when I went by on a bicycle instead of zipping by in a car. There were houses and trees and landscapes and animals I had simply never seen before. “Journey by car” tends to fix our attention on the destination… the place where we will be at the end of the road. “Journey by bike” helps us attend to the sights at hand. And so if that’s true, just imagine what “journey by foot” might do! The same is true on the spiritual journey. The essential nature of this journey is that it is a journey of mindfulness… of soaking our hearts, minds and souls in the rich broth of God’s creation.

I am certain there are at least sixteen other parallels I have neglected in this little essay and some that you don’t agree with. That’s OK! Please feel free to add or subtract from this.

But the one last, all-important parallel is this: that an encounter with and vital relationship with God is ultimately the point of both of these journeys. Because as Paul reminds us in Acts 17:28, “In him we live and move and have our being…”



  1. June 29, 2016 at 11:58 am

    I really enjoy bicycling – or think I should more. When given a choice, I walk 90% of the time.

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