I have a friend who is a slight adrenaline junkie. Slight, in the same way that Austin gets slightly hot in August. I am convinced that there is not a physical endeavor that would ever beat her in a stare down. She is audacious and wonderful.
Truth be told, I’m not a thrill-seeker. I enjoy a physical challenge as much as the next athlete, but when push comes to a real shove, I’m a fair-skinned pansy; not one of the crazies. I know this because I don’t prefer to bruise or bleed excessively. I also don’t enjoy being extraordinarily filthy, or coming face-to-face with imminent death more than zero times in any outing.
So you will understand my disquietude as I careened over a mountain-bike trail with my rear-end unceremoniously hanging off the teeny seat, struggling to keep up with the aforementioned crazy person who was having the time of her life.
And it was with no small amount of trepidation that I arrived, wobbly and silly looking, to a cliff’s ledge. I peered over with growing alarm as my compadres were already screaming downhill, attacking the switchbacks, and jumping boulders and tree-stumps on a ridiculously treacherous descent to the river. I considered calling my kids to tell them I loved them and would see them in heaven.
“Come on, Kim! What a rush!” echoed up the mountain.
I almost peed my pants.
Hawks were circling above, or were they vultures just biding their time? I recall, as if in a dream, the sunny Texas wildflowers springing out of every rock and crevice along the path. They would look pretty on a grave, I thought.
And so, white-knuckled and shins bleeding from those wretched pedals, I swallowed my dread, pitched down the hill, and staggered onward over the 14-mile course. Has anyone in the history of mountain biking ever clamped the brake for two straight hours? I think not.
I fell repeatedly. I looked ridiculous. I opted out of the saddle and carried my bike for embarrassingly long stretches of terrain, and realized at each hairpin turn or steep descent that I was scared.
But, I was also still alive.
Being scared makes me talk to myself in a way that being comfortable and confident cannot. When I admit I’m scared, it starts an inner conversation that is worth paying attention to. Why am I out here? Why is this important to me? What’s going on here?
That whole crazy morning, I felt fearful and fainthearted. But I also felt alive.
How can we ever change and grow more alive in anything without facing fear? How will we make memories, grow into more interesting and energetic people, or grow at all?
What is a waste of our given breath, saints?
I suggest to you it is day-after-day practice of not facing our fear of death. The hours and effort spent feathering our nests, preserving our bodies, and numbing our souls reap insipid inner conversations rather than audacious ones.
Feeling scared brings out the important fact that we are alive, and affirm that life is precious and good! Being fearful of death, in all it’s forms, is a good place to begin listening to a conversation God began long ago and wants you to understand and remember.
This very God has no fear of death, even though he experienced it first-hand. Why? Because he is the only Being that can create new life. Even death cannot extinguish true life.
We’ve been given breath for the ride today. We will have qualms and angst, will likely fall and wonder “what the heck am I doing out here?”. There will be struggle and questions and possibly dread. But, there might also be adventure, flowers waving from rocks, cool spring breezes, and friends urging you forward with their joy. Do you see them all? Are you thankful for all?
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51)
(*All photos from environmentalgraffiti.com. These guys are the real crazies!)