The First Shall Be Last
About two years ago my husband and I decided it would be a fun idea to get some people together and go for a bike ride (not the black leather biker gang you are thinking of), just a couple of nerds with bulky cycling shorts.
First on the cycling list was my husband's dad, Howard. Then shortly thereafter, our buddy Walter came to join in. Within a few months after we got married, we pulled in newcomers, Jason and Cesar. We would ride every couple of days, which shortly became a more structured weekly ride, and if we were really bored, a random midnight ride through the downtown streets of Houston. Over the next two years, we had about ten people come and join us in and around Houston.
Months turned into years and we ended up coining our group, "The SlowSpokes."
Over the last year, we began 'training' for a few rides. Last April we would tackle a two-day, 180 miles ride from Houston to Austin. The team consisted of myself, my husband Daniel, friend Cesar and brother from another mother, Jason. You can read about those journeys here.
Some way, some how I talked them into doing their first Century with me, which is a one hundred mile bike ride in one sitting (day). This would include riding 105 miles in less than 8 hours.
So, we signed up and began riding.
Rain poured in Houston on and off for months. We were rained out of each one of our 'hill training' rides out in Chappell Hill, Texas. As much as my team hates me the day of the training, we all end up being friends after a hot meal and warm shower.
Unfortunately, as mentioned above, these training rides were cancelled or modified in our surrounding Houston area where absolutely no "hills" exist. We put in some miles in hopes muscle memory would grace us with its presence, however we were unable to put in the desired amount of hill training.
September came rather quickly and at 7 o'clock in the morning on Saturday, September 22nd, the fog horn sounded and we were off. It was not mile three when the inclines began. We began the ride with a prayer and continuously prayed through the miles. We climbed and climbed, keeping the moaning to minimal whisper so our fellow team mate, Jason would not 'ding' us with his infamously annoying bell. Miles went by slowly but surely; the one thing I kept noticing was the lack of camaraderie or even support within the cycling ride, other than between the four of us.
By mile fifty-five, we began to wear thin. The hills were tearing us up and the "plenty of snacks" promised via email were not holding us over. Thankfully my father-in-law Howard and a fellow cycling friend Kyle, met us to bring lunch along with our first place to sit down and placeholder for our bikes. We had come about half way and unbeknownst to us, it would be a hefty, long haul back.
But, you know what comes with long haul backs? Time.
And do you know what we can do with time? We can complain or we can praise.
During this particular long haul, I chose to praise.
Though it is far easier to complain than to praise, I chose to intently praise because I realized I was on a grand adventure with God and He even let me drag my friends along with me!
I began praising the Lord for all the wonderful opportunities He had given me (and us). I came to realize God gave us health, strength, endurance, confidence, self-worth, accountability, love and support. Not to just one of us but to ALL four of us and even to another new rider, Sheri who rode her 36 miler, alone.
I will not ever know if we could have done this ride alone but what I did know is I would not ever WANT to do this alone. To be completely honest, I am spoiled. I love God's hand picked crew. I love how He has taught me to be a leader, a follower, a guidance counselor, an intercessor, a punching bag and scapegoat.
We came in "last" that day.
We crossed the finish line dead, stinking last. All the tents for the Post-Ride activities were all torn down, food vendors were gone and the only people waiting at the finish line were Dad, Kyle, Sherri and three other riders who knew we were still pedaling though the 105 miles they had trekked through.
And you know what? I would not want to be last with any other people because Matthew 20:16 says,
"So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few are chosen."
This scripture blew my mind after this ride.
I have heard, read and even written it down, but today, I realized our group stands out because we have favor. We stand out because we are based on love and not competition. We stand strong because we have a God who pedals with us with every push of the clip. We are not alone, we are never, ever alone. In fact, we are CHOSEN. God has hand picked this group because we ride, encourage, support and LOVE one another as we should. We know there is no competition between us and others because at the end of the day, we are promised to be first, ALWAYS.
With a joyful heart,