The alarm jolted me awake at 5:30 am. Cycling's promise said, "Get up out of bed and get on the bike. The minor discomfort of an early morning departure in the cold and dark will eventually reward you with rich blessings."
My response was, "Oh yeah?...well, my bed rewards me immediately with the blessings of cozy warmth and rest without discomfort." And so it goes...the debate that occurs countless times across the world in the minds of those who plan to wake early to pursue any purposeful activity.
I know, of course, from experience that I would regret going back to sleep and letting an opportunity slip by. I know also that there often is a nice reward for a reasonable investment in cycling. Because I believed cycling's promise, I reluctantly crawled out of bed, quickly found some warm clothes, and took my time fueling up for a ride. At 6:15 am, I rolled out the front door into 42 degree darkness and pointed my headlight into the north wind.
When I start my rides northward, I gain elevation. The gradual climb, along with the brisk wind, lack of warm up time, and no gearing options, didn't take long to render me gasping. As the road leveled and breathing returned to a more comfortable rhythm, I noticed first the burning in my still-cold legs. Then I noticed the stars and the wind blowing into my ears.
It's a little creepy out there alone on deserted county roads in total darkness. The headlight provides plenty of bright light straight down the road, but it is a rather focused beam and there is no vision to either side. When dogs bark, the only way to tell whether they are chasing is to discern whether the barks are rapidly growing louder. There can be some very uneasy moments between barks. Unlike the daylight hours, there is no way to determine if they are behind a fence or roaming and ready for the kill.
After awhile, the body warms up the the effort, but the pace into the wind is slow. Fortunately, the limited field of view makes it seem like a reasonable pace. The creepy feeling of loneliness transitions into purpose, rhythm, and the preservation of momentum. The turn-around point almost comes as a surprise.
Turning around brings several rewards. First, there is the change in direction so the wind becomes an ally. Second, light on the eastern horizon becomes evident. On chilly mornings, that orange tint lining the earth-sky interface begins to give definition to a few otherwise invisibly grey clouds. It might as well be God's personal cheerful, "Good Morning!", exclusively to me. Finally, while riding the wind, the ride is amazingly quiet. There is nothing, but the faint hum of tires on pavement and a few sounds from the local surroundings. Passing by one farm, the creaking of a windmill swiveling to a slight wind shift was obvious to me before it was spotted visually. By this time, the rewards of the morning ride were abundantly evident. The cranks spun easily, the temperature was comfortable, and it felt good to be outside and moving.
Nearing home, each new thing becoming visible was as if it were a new greeting. The warm glow is a stunning contrast to the chilly air.
It occurred to me that cycling's promises are similar to God's promises. Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." His promise is that if we choose the minor discomfort of giving up self to submit to His ways, He will provide us a full life. To the degree that I have believed the promise and submitted to Him, I have been rewarded with rich blessings. Just like it takes a while to warm up on the bike, it takes time to adjust to more selfless living. Just like it is a little scary to pedal in the dark, it is a little scary to trust Him to lead me and and use me for His purposes. Just as that sun rises in the horizon, He encourages me and gives me strength. Then I see Him more clearly and I rejoice in His blessings.
Hopefully, the trivial rewards of cycling's promises will continue to remind me of the infinitely more valuable rewards from the promises of God.