Come with me to my childhood in Wauwatosa.
I'm a young boy, and my sweet ride is a gold, Columbia bicycle with chrome fenders and 3 speeds – and we travel everywhere. I sport jet-black hair, a thousand freckles and inexhaustible energy, embracing summer’s invitation to saddle my bike and explore the world – like Lewis and Clark. Today’s destination (like many days) is Hart Park, where I’ll play basketball, baseball, and 'hang' at the playground with friends.
Mounting my stallion (Columbia!), we catapult down the driveway, shortcutting over grass and curbs, galloping (ok, pedaling) to 70th street. Wauwatosa is picturesque – a mosaic of well-trimmed lawns, tree-canopied streets, serpentine sidewalks, and homes of brick, Lannon stone, and Tudor design – no two alike. While I pedal down 70th, I see Jefferson Elementary School ahead (where I often climb monkey bars and play Strikeout, a Wisconsin version of two-man baseball against a wall).
Passing the school, my gut begins to feel a churning thrill, knowing my journey is about to soar. Swallowing hard, I see it just beyond the school playground. The Hill. The 70th street rollercoaster dive. Its pitched plunge is more mountain than molehill. I will be biking down the side of a steep Egyptian pyramid! (Well, you must remember a boy’s imagination sees reality in Technicolor exaggeration).
As 70th Street rolls past Maple Terrace, my momentum multiplies, my feet slip off the pedals, and I begin coasting. What exhilaration! A cool blast of wind powerwashes my face, flaps my black hair backward, and chisels a dozen freckles off my forehead. The hill's slope nose-dives as the gale-force blast surges. What breathtaking glory! As ol' Columbia reaches terminal velocity, the hill begins to bottom out, while I coast an additional two blocks, transferring every drop of potential energy to kinetic. A couple of pumps on the pedals, turn left, and I arrive at Hart Park for the day.
Later, as shadows grow long, it’s time to bike home for supper. Then I remember – sandwiched between me and supper is, The Hill. This morning, The Hill was my "rollercoaster-plunging accomplice;" but now it’s my 5 pm archenemy of ascent. Anticipating a battle, I pedal furiously, building a head of steam two blocks early. Arriving at the base, I punch The Hill with momentum – pumping, pumping my way up, up, up. My piston legs grind as they fill with burning lactic acid. Twin nemeses – Gravity and Incline – begin conquering my will, while sweat spills and speed surrenders.
I now face two options: I can pump, strain, and squeeze every ounce of grit to climb my Everest, or I can turn my bike around and dejectedly coast back down the hill. Never once in my entire childhood did I stop pedaling and magically coast uphill. From this I learned one of the most important lessons of life:
If you’re coasting, you’re going downhill.
This lesson applies beyond bicycles, slopes and gravity. It applies to my relationship with God. Am I currently coasting? Or, am I attacking the hill? Am I like Demas (2 Timothy 4:10), who turned his bike around and coasted downhill, succumbing to the comfort of this world? Or am I like Jacob (Genesis 32:22-32), who pedaled with relentless determination, refusing to surrender the climb until God blessed him? Which will it be – coast or climb?
Paul told Timothy:
“... set an example for believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity ... Be diligent in these things, be absorbed in them so that your progress will be evident to all” (1 Timothy 4:12, 15).
Progress. Not perfection. Climb the hill. Don't turn around to coast. Up. Up. Up!
My fellow cyclist in God's peloton, let’s keep climbing the hill God has placed us upon. It’s a glorious ascent, and the only way to make it home in time for supper.