Two years ago, I found myself biking under the sizzling sun, breathing heavily, climbing a steep incline in the Black Hills of South Dakota with a number of Christian Science teens from my National Leadership Council, a group that's associated with Discovery Bound. (DiscoveryBound is a program that provides year-round fellowship for Christian Scientists and their friends.) This bike ride was meant to stretch our limits and would give us many opportunities along the way to rely on God for strength and direction.
For the middle part of the excursion, we had a full day of mountain biking planned. That day, everybody was really excited. We buckled up our helmets, tightened the straps, and set off for the bike trail. The group eventually broke off into smaller groups based on each person's capabilities. I led one of the groups, which included six other people. Our goal was to cycle 15 miles out into the hills and back, a round trip of 30 miles.
We agreed that biking down the first 15-mile stretch was easy, especially since the last six miles were straight downhill. Feeling the warm breeze against our sweaty faces as we cruised the downhill was a real enjoyment.
Once we saw our halfway marker in the distance, we pedaled fiercely to reach our goal and then took a break to celebrate together. At this point, however, out concern was the big six-mile hill at the beginning of our return. How were we going to get back up that?
Before taking on this great challenge, we all decided to get some spiritual inspiration. So we started by sitting down together and coming up with a list of discouraging or negative thoughts that would make our challenge more difficult such as, "It's too hot," or "The hill is too steep," or "I'm too tired to make it up this hill."
Then we replaced those discouraging thoughts with good, helpful thoughts that would aid us up the big, long hill. These good thoughts included ideas such as, "God gives the energy we need," "God helps us overcome all blockades or limits," and "God always helps His children!"
After this inspiring, spiritual discussion, we hopped back on our bikes and began the incline. The whole time, biking up the long hill with the sun blazing, I reflected only on spiritually based thoughts, the kind of thoughts that our group had been sharing.
The most helpful inspiration that came to me was from my favorite hymn in the Christian Science Hymnal, from a poem called "'Feed My Sheep'" by Mary Baker Eddy. Over and over in my mind I repeated two parts from the first verse out loud: "Shepherd, show me how to go/O'er the hillside steep" and "I will follow and rejoice / All the rugged way" (No. 304). When this little, yet powerful, thought came to me, I knew that God, my Shepherd, would give me the strength I needed to get up the hill.
Reflecting on this, I found myself climbing the hill without any problems and passing each mile marker with ease. When I reached the top, I celebrated and thanked God for the energy He supplied me with, and I hugged all my teammates for a job well done.
Shortly after, the seven of us finished the next nine miles and met up with the larger group. I had a great time biking in the Black Hills and enjoyed the last days of our adventure trip. What an amazing way to express a God-given and limitless supply of energy! |
Cruising down the bike trail beneath a beautiful blue sky, pedaling against a warm breeze, I took in the splendor of the surrounding scenery. Grateful to be in the company of good friends, I thanked God for the joy and beauty of the afternoon.
I'd been particularly looking forward to this day of mountain biking, which was something I'd never tried before. It was part of a twoweek adventure trip in South Dakota several summers ago.
At last the day had arrived, and I started off feeling energized and excited!
However, a few kilometers from the trailhead, our group began to encounter its first obstacles. Most of them were mechanical issues. Someone had trouble with the seat staying elevated, another had difficulty shifting gears, and I had a flat tire. My initial reaction was frustration. I just wanted things to go smoothly, the way we'd planned.
Despite these challenges, the adults leading the group responded to each situation in a calm and collected manner. Instead of letting the unexpected hinder our progress they solved the issues in a creative and humble way.
I was so grateful for the way the rest of the day took shape
That afternoon, the path steadily declined, and it was the first time all day I'd been able to fully take in my surroundings. The frustration I'd felt earlier that day no longer seemed relevant, and I forgot about trying to force things to fit according to my will. I felt enveloped in God's love!
On our ride, there was a tunnel we'd aspired to reach as our turnaround point. As we rounded a corner, it came into view. Elated, I broke into a smile.
Then, suddenly, as I entered the tunnel, I lost control and felt my front wheel swerve toward the wall. I was hurled from my bike into the darkness.
Immediately, the others in my group came to a safe stop, while one of the leaders came over to me. We were all Christian Scientists, and she started to help me by saying "the scientific statement of being" out loud. This is a familiar passage from Science and Health that I'm used to hearing at the end of my Sunday School lessons each week. It reads: "There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all. Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal. Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual" (p. 468).
I reasoned that since I was made in God's image, it was simply impossible for me to express anything but His wholly spiritual nature. This fact was permanent, and had been evident that morning on the downhill, and it was true even at the instant in which I'd fallen. I stuck to these spiritual truths in my though so that as I was helped to my feet, was not alarmed by my scrapes and bruises.
The rest of my group attentively supported me in every way. They shared spiritual ideas and helped me while we made a plan. This involved sending two people ahead to notify the Christian Science practitioner who had accompanied us on the trip. Since I was a bit dazed, but alert and actively praying, it was still unclear whether I would be able to bike the remaining distance or not. The chaperone helped bandage and clean my scrapes and cuts. And by the time the practitioner reached us in a vehicle at the roadside about half an hour later, I was feeling perfectly well.
I appreciated how patiently the group stuck with me until I was ready to get back on my bike and start pedaling up the next hill. I was so grateful for the way the rest of the day took shape, even though it hadn't matched up with my initial plans. I felt so protected by the peace and love I'd been expressing with my friends.
Scott Sanford is from California and is looking forward to being a senior in high school in the fall. He enjoys traveling, meeting new people, and being a Boy Scout.
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