It was windy this morning. Really windy. On an 80 degree day like today, the wind probably feels like sweet angel breath to someone digging in their garden or sitting on their patio, sipping iced tea. But to an out-of-shape 20-something pedaling a bike uphill, facing into the wind with the sun beating down, it felt more like the scene from Twister where the cow got swept into the storm. In that moment, I felt like the cow. In more ways than one.
It had been a lovely bike ride up until that point. I don’t always love where I live, but on my bike rides, I understand the magic of flat Wisconsin farm fields. I notice the life in the ditches and hedges along the way, I savor the intoxicating awareness of my smallness among the bigness of the sky and the land. Usually I am alone with my thoughts and prayers and cursing and the blackbirds. Today was not one of those days.
My usually empty farm roads were full. Of bikers. Fancy bikes, fancy helmets, color-coordinated biking suits, all rubbing my face in their biking superiority and my puny attempts to join them. There must have been some sort of race taking place and these rural roads were part of the route. They were streaming down the roads, in front of and behind me in little packs. At one point, we were traveling in opposite directions so I waved as I passed. Nothing. They could probably tell I was a fraud.
I put them out of my mind, trying to regain some enjoyment in the ride. It worked for a little while until I turned at the stop sign and began traveling into the wind- which also happened to be in the direction the bikers were taking. There were more of them. Thankfully, we were all pretty spaced out so I wasn’t worried until I noticed a group of bikers behind me. They had been a long way behind when I had turned onto this road but they were not keeping their distance. I knew with every slow, agonizing turn of my bicycle wheels they were coming on me fast.
So here I am. On a hill, pummeled by a wind doing its best to push me over, surrounded by a cadre of biking pros, and I suddenly come to the horrible realization that this is going to be the day when I actually can’t make it to the top. I will have to stop and rest or, worse yet, walk my bike the rest of the way. (Sadly, it’s not even a substantial hill. It’s more of an incline. Pathetic.) I am starting to panic about this when the group from behind overtakes me. I flush with embarrassment, as tortuous hours of elementary and middle-school gym class flash before my eyes. What am I doing out here? Why did I think I could do this? How embarrassing. As they come alongside me, two of the men turn and call out to me. “Good job!” “You’re getting there!” “You can do this!”
I couldn’t believe it. My face broke into a ridiculous grin as I squeaked out a very grateful “Thanks!” I sat up straighter on my bike, felt my confidence grow. I swear my legs felt stronger. The whole ride changed. Instead of wanting to crawl into the nearest ditch, I suddenly wanted to own those roads and kick up some dust. I grinned like an idiot for the rest of the bike ride, buoyed by just that small bit of encouragement and kindness. I even cried a little, astonished by how good those words had felt. And I made it to the top.
I am convinced that if you look hard enough, you will find God anywhere because He is in everything and everyone. Well, he was definitely doing some bike riding today.