I hopped on my road bike yesterday for the first time in about a year.
The last time I rode it was shortly before I ruptured my Achilles – an injury that is nearly a year in the recovery process, and still not where I would like it to be.
Now, full disclosure, the picture shown above was taken during my glory days on that bike. She and I (the bike, that is) would travel all over the local roads together, climbing mountains, enjoying views, speeding down descents. That bike and I have enjoyed thousands and thousands of miles of blissful togetherness.
And then, with one loud snap of the Achilles, it all came to a screeching halt.
All of those fun times, gone.
The moments of quiet and solitude, of thoughtful clarity, gone.
The rich conversations alongside friends during a ride, gone.
You ever been there?
Where something you loved, something you poured yourself into, was ripped away from you?
And I think the loss of the thing is perhaps more painful than the injury that caused the loss. For at least the pain of the injury subsides, but the lingering effects of recovery last a long, long, time.
You ever been there?
Maybe it was a relationship that went sideways. Maybe it was a dream that died. Maybe it was a terrible loss. The bottom line is, when those things happen, much deeper cuts are made on an emotional level.
We get hurt and end up scared.
We get hurt and vow never to be put in that situation again.
We get hurt and give up on our dreams, writing them off as silly childish fantasies.
You ever been there?
But here’s the thing: we all intuitively know that we’re better off back on the bike, so to speak, but we often let fear of re-injury keep us from ever taking the baby steps necessary to get there.
I’ve been there. I’ve experienced all of the above, and my emotions were a wreck for years. It has taken me lots and lots of dipping my toes into the relational waters before I gained enough assurance to go a little deeper.
Or in the cycling analogy, it took me weeks in a boot, then more weeks on crutches, then painful physical therapy, then abandoning the crutches before I felt ready to do so, then tenderly taking new steps again, then gaining confidence to take a walk around the block, then a walk around the neighborhood, then a slightly faster walk around the neighborhood, then a short hike, then a longer hike with small hills, then a slightly faster hike with steeper hills…
You see where I’m going with this?
All of these small steps came after a time of healing, after a time of rest and recovery, but it wasn’t healthy for me to stay there.
I had to start the process of moving in order to facilitate the next stages of healing.
And then a full year later, I finally drew up the courage to do an easy rehab ride on the road bike.
To clip my feet in to the pedals, forcing the Achilles to be isolated in order to get stronger.
Man, injuries take time to heal, don’t they? And the Achilles hurt during the ride, reminding me that I’m nowhere near where I want to be.
But you know what?
As I got back on the bike, I was reminded of the joy that cycling provides me.
I was reminded of the moments of clarity, of the peaceful solitude, and of the utter refreshment of being out on the open road and seeing the full sky.
I was scared, I had to go slow, my Achilles still hurt, but that process also brought about a hope that I might be able to ride a little longer next time. It brought about hope that someday a Friday sunrise ride with my friend Bill might actually be a possibility again.
I felt hope.
So here’s the deal: Injuries hurt. The losses cut deeper than the initial wound.
Lots and lots of it.
But if there’s anything I’m learning in this stage of life, it’s that those baby steps have to be taken in order for us to experience the fullness of life.
Maybe it’s a physical injury.
Maybe it’s an emotional one.
Maybe your life’s calling has taken a beating.
Maybe your friendships have let you down.
But I am convinced, with the help of God and the encouragement from others, we can all collectively take increasingly more baby steps.
Because the truth is, we’re all the Walking Wounded, we’ve all taken hits, and we all have the potential to experience quite a bit more joy out of this life.
So I would encourage you: take some baby steps today.
Maybe it’s reaching out to that friend who hurt you.
Maybe it’s putting to death the agreement you made that you would never dream that dream again.
Maybe it’s taking a social or emotional risk.
It might be scary, it might hurt a bit, but I believe in you. You can do it.
Because the truth is, if we stay where we are, the pain wins. And when the pain wins, the world is the poorer for it.
And God knows this world needs a little more goodness flowing through it right now.
Take a step. We all believe in you; you can do it…