12 Sep Hey! That’s cheating!
I still remember my very first bicycle. It was green. Not a pretty green, one of those ugly greens that look as if decomposition has already set in. But it was the start of a love affair with cycling that never left me. I was in high school and it was my late uncle’s Raleigh road bicycle. It came out of storage (that’s a fancy way of saying it gathered dust and spiderwebs in the corner of a garage) and it even had that old metal Free State Province Licence Disc still on it – that’s how old it was.
I remember racing the 8 kilometers to school every morning on it like a time trial, seeing how I could improve my time every day. Sometimes during the summer months, I rocked up at school so early that I had to wait for the groundskeepers to unlock the gate. From then on the groundskeeper and I had a little competition going on. Then after school, I played rugby and our coach was an old army officer (he kept his bushy moustache as proof). If you didn’t puke, you didn’t train hard enough. So, after rugby training, I would contently cycle back home. Many afternoons there would be traffic officers that pulled kids over to check if our bicycles were roadworthy. No, I’m not kidding. And I’m also not telling you my age. As I am remembering all this, I can’t help but wonder, where on earth did all that energy come from? And more importantly where on earth did it disappear to now? Shouldn’t I have all that energy now, trying to raise three kids and working 18 hours a day? What did they feed us back then?
If biology failed us on the energy side, technology has sure made up for it! And you know what? It’s available for you as well. How? It’s called an e-bike my friend! Want to feel like you have the energy of a teenager again? Want to enjoy physical exercise without wondering if you’ll still be alive for Christmas this year? Want to kick some butt on the trails while keeping a poker face, but inside you are maniacally laughing like a super-villain because you’re dropping every one in the peloton? It’s called an e-bike! So, if you can stop practicing your maniacal laugh for a moment and read further, I can enlighten you some more.
Several months ago, I was fortunate enough, thanks to the generosity of the amazing team at Specialized West Rand, to get an e-bike. It changed everything for me. I have been actively mountain biking for many years. I have done one-day races and multi-day stage races (I can see some of you skeptics looking at my belly and lift your self-righteous eyebrow at it. For your information, this belly is my long-range tank). Like many avid cyclists in South Africa, I have cycled more kilometers on bicycles than your grandmother has done with her Toyota Corolla. But I have never enjoyed cycling as much as when I got my e-bike. I know some of you are already bored because you struggle to understand why anyone would want to cycle if God clearly invented the car, right? Hold on my friend, I am busy cycling to my point.
An e-bike is an electric-assisted bicycle. It is NOT a motorbike. It is a pedal-assisted bicycle with electric assistance (taking bicycles out of the dark ages). It is you – only faster. Without tripping out on geek-speak: there is a bevvy of silent moving parts doing the heavy lifting (amplifying your input by up to 320%), but there’s also complicated, custom software that senses the torque you’re applying in each pedal stroke. This specially developed algorithm amplifies the power that you’re putting in, or more simply: The more power that you apply, the more power the motors put out. (Impressed by my technical knowledge? You should be! I copied and pasted it from www.specialized.com!) You go faster and further while getting a better workout than pedaling a normal bicycle. And you stay in an optimum fat burning zone, meaning – MORE CHOCOLATES!
But there is a flip side to this coin my dear friends. There exists a group of cycling Pharisees. They are the self-appointed Puritans of cycling. The religious cycling elite that wants to crucify those of the e-bike fraternity. Because like Christendom, those who boast in self-effort cannot stand the sight of grace!
I was riding in the Maluti mountains earlier this year and as I passed other cyclists, I was greeted with a loud: “Hey! That’s cheating!” And that got me thinking: this e-bike is the perfect analogy for God’s grace. When we are weak – it carries us. When we are strong – it carries us. When we feel we don’t have the strength to make it home – it carries us.
Grace makes us outperform everyone else, and makes us so much better than what we actually are. God’s grace takes us from the back of the peloton and puts us in front. There is NO downside to it. Honestly, it is cheating! But it also isn’t. Because legally and judicially, Jesus paid the price that we could never pay to give us what we never deserved. And that my friend, is not a religion, that is a miracle.
But just like the cyclist community – it always upsets those who rely on self-effort. They cannot stand it! They think it’s crooking. They think we are lazy bums who sneak chocolate milkshake into our bidons instead of the regulatory Cytomax, while cruising along the trails while an electric motor is doing all the work. To them, we are not worthy of our Lycra pants or shaven legs.
But, just like grace, we are actually working harder than them. Because that is what happens when you get assistance – you push harder. Here is the truth that I hope hits home for all of us: grace always takes you further! You always outperform others when you rely on God’s grace, rather than your own effort. That’s why Jesus promised us; “GREATER works than these will you do …”
That was quite an amazing promise from Jesus. Can you imagine us as mere mortals doing greater works than what Jesus did? Us, broken and messed up people, who cannot stick to our diets, cannot stick to our New Year’s resolutions and good intentions or worst of all; cannot go a week without putting the toilet paper roll the wrong way around into its holder (that is just diabolical)! Let me ask you, how is it possible that we can do greater things than Jesus, without His assistance? Is getting help then such a bad thing?
So why don’t we? Why don’t we allow Jesus to do all the heavy lifting for us? Why do we keep on relying on our own self-effort when all the work has already been done for us? Why are we trying to complete a completed work? Why are we trying to add our bit to a masterpiece? Why don’t we use what is available to us? Why are we so dead set against getting assistance? Why do we insist on being the heroes of our own narrative?
The world is crazy these days. I sometimes feel like I want to shout with Bon Jovi in that blasphemous old song of his: “Hey God! Tell me what the hell is going on.” It is confusing. There are so many voices shouting to get our attention. They are trying to shape us into what they think we should be. But then again, we cannot blame God if He already provided the answer and way out for us. He already provided the assistance for us.
When Jesus died on the cross – He made all of heaven’s resources available to you and me. But like those snobbish cyclists, we pull up our noses to the e-bike. We think it’s cheating because we cannot take glory for the win if we didn’t work hard for it. Honestly, I think we need all the assistance we can get. I don’t know how people think they can make it without God’s grace. That is why this invitation from Jesus is comforting to me:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28–30 The Message)