I used to be a cyclist.
Twelve years ago, after a short but scary battle with cancer, I valued my health as a gift and wanted to do something with it to help others.
I joined the local chapter of Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training—a group that uses marathons, biking and triathlons to raise money for cancer research. I’d long wondered if I had it in me to do a long-distance event.
In the cold of winter we started training for the Santa Fe Century, a 100-mile bike ride. I resisted buying all that ridiculous looking bike attire and an expensive road bike. Seriously, does anyone look good in that stuff?
Months passed and the miles added up. Eventually vanity gave way to practicality. I gave in and bought the jerseys, the shoes and even the road bike. I finally looked—and felt—like a cyclist.
May came and our team flew to New Mexico for the big event. The Santa Fe Century was a difficult, incredible and exhilarating life experience. As a result I continued with Team in Training and did lots more bike riding in the subsequent years—on my own, with my team, at local events, with local clubs.
Besides discovering that I really don’t enjoy biking more than 50 miles at a time, I found that cyclists are a pretty exclusive bunch. In cycling circles, you are without a doubt judged by your gear, your attire, your bike’s fancy extras and your street cred—especially when you’re
a woman. The more advanced the group, the more they seemed to say, “Are you one of us … or are you a poser?”
One day during a spin class I talked with a woman I’d befriended. She was a serious cyclist and we chatted about riding. I’m quite sure I tried to impress her with my biking resume . . . as if to convince her, “See, I’m one of you.” When I talked about Team in Training, a spark of recognition crossed her face.
“O-o-o-o-h!” She said as if a missing piece clicked into place. “You’re a disease rider!”
Disease rider? I didn’t even know that term existed—and I was one! She hadn’t meant it as a compliment. With one swift pronounce
ment I’d been exposed as a cycling poser and categorized as inferior.
I was a disease rider.
This attitude reminds me of the Church.
In the Christian community I’ve witnessed plenty of exclusivity. Plenty of shutting out. Plenty of “O-o-o-o-h, you’re a ______________ [fill in the blank].” Shamefully, I’ve done it to others as well.
We accept and reject each other based on every conceivable criteria—denomination, worship style, spiritual gifts, praying ability, giving, parenting style, worldly living, and on it goes. The list is endless.
Our human nature wants to decide who’s in and who’s out. It makes us feel secure. Accepted. Superior. In control. But God didn’t make you and me the doormen (and women) of His Church. He gave that job to Jesus.
And surprisingly, shockingly, Jesus didn’t join the “in” crowd. Instead, He shredded religious resumes, shattered the religious elites’ country-club mentality and blew the doors to heaven wide open.
His one requirement to get in? “Come, follow me.”
Our Christian journey is certainly like an endurance event. We must train and gear up to grow in faith, but the “stuff” is never THE most important. As Paul said, “Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ and to know that I belong to him.” (Philippians 3:7-8, CEV)
Unlike cycling, Christianity isn’t a competitive sport. Really! Jesus gave His followers something special that sets us apart from others—grace. Grace wipes away accomplishments and levels the playing field. It gives what us we don’t deserve and can never earn—entrance into God’s inner circle. And His unconditional love.
How I want a grace-filled heart to love abundantly. And grace-filled eyes to see Jesus in His children. And grace-filled ears to hear, so that when we talk, a spark of recognition will cross my face and I’ll say, “O-o-o-o-h! You’re that kind of Christian! Me, too.”
Cyclist. Disease rider. Poser. When we follow Jesus there’s only one title that really matters: Sinner, saved by grace.