Two kinds of cyclists

August 31, 2011

There are two kinds of cyclists

Those who have crashed, and those who are going to crash.

For eight years, I have been among the latter. Today, I joined the former.

I left my house around 5:35 this morning, rolled downhill about a quarter mile, then climbed to a half mile. I then rolled down for roughly another three quarters, had an up-and-down for a while, until I’d covered about five miles. I’d climbed Powers Ferry Road, turned on Tuxedo, rolled down then climbed back up, until I completed the dogleg across Blackland. As Tuxedo turned downhill, I popped the gears up a few notches, “punched the gas” to pick up speed, and . . . then it happened. 

  In the dark, on a stretch of road that is REALLY dark (I use a headlight, but keep it on the blinking phase, using it to let cars know that I am there more than to illuminate the road-I use streetlights for that), there was a tree limb about  three to four feet long, and about three inches in diameter across the road. I hit it, and hit the deck. I was rolling at about 20 miles an hour when I hit the stick; I went down on my right side, HARD, hard enough that I cracked my helmet, and slid along the street for 15-20 feet. I distinctly recall thinking at one point, “That sound is my helmet sliding across the pavement.” 

  I came to a stop. 

  I laid there for a moment, stunned, out of breath (from the exertion of climbing the last hill and from punching the pedals to pick up speed), and in pain, I wondered what had happened.  I honestly think that my first thought was about what kind of shape my front wheel was in (The bike is essentially fine, for the record.) I reached back into my jersey pocket to feel for my phone, it was there, I called my wife and told her I’d crashed (“I’m OK, but I need you to come get me.”), then started to assess reality. My computer had come off my bike, as had the mirror on my helmet. I found them both, the latter in two pieces. I found everything except my water bottle (I have lots of those.) 

  At home, I assessed the damage. The bike is, mercifully, OK. I have road rash on my right forearm, right shoulder, and knee and shin. My hip feels like it has been hit with a LARGE sledgehammer, and my ribs-on the right-hurt like dog doo (a term that an orthopedic surgeon once told me is a medical term), but X-rays say there are no breaks (Unless a radiologist says differently after a look), only “deep bone bruises.”

  Tomorrow, I’ll ride on my “old” bike (Cannondale R-400) that is on a trainer in my basement. Friday, Lord willing, I plan to ride 50 miles on the Silver Comet Trail. 

  I am an IRONMAN (peachtreeironmen.org); we don’t break, we bend. In another week, I expect to hike 12-13 miles. 

  Pain is temporary. Quitting is eternal. 

  Ain’t no crash can keep me down. 

  I’m an IRONMAN.

I’m currently working my way through the book Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham, and I ran across the quote used in the title of this blog in my reading this morning. Apparently when IBM was trying to make a significant shift in the way they did something, they kept pouring new engineers into the project, and finally someone wrote the CEO with the above quote.

It takes nine months to birth a baby, no matter how many women are assigned to the task.

In other words, there are some things that just cannot be done in an instant.

This microwave culture in which we live has corrupted us in many ways. Sure, the “nuke” can give you dinner in minutes, when it used to take an hour+, but there are some things that settle into our cultural psyche when we get what we want in seconds. As a kid, we had two telephones in the house (admittedly, this was alos the dark ages, when there were four TV stations, and you actually had to get out of the chair to change channels); my Dad taught me that when I called someone, I should let the phone ring ten times (the span of a minute), because it might take someone a while to get to the phone. Of course, this was before answering machines, as well.

In Richard Swenson’s great book Margin, he talks about the development of the automatic dishwasher. It was invented and produced in order to free women (OK, that’s a time-boiund and patriarchial comment, I will admit) from washing dishes after meals. What Swenson points out is that while that freedom was realized, our culture immediately filled it with something else. In other words, while we were supposed to discover margin in life through the dishwasher, it gave us time to accomplish more tasks.

We don’t gather in the kitchen and cook as a family. We don’t work together to clean the dishes (you wash, I’ll dry). We farm out cooking (last night it was Pizza Hut on paper plates at my house), and and avoid conversation by watching TV while we eat. Multitasking becomes the mark of our lives, and recent studies have discovered that while we are doing more, we are actually accomplishing less–and what we accomplish is done with less than stellar results.

We want instant oatmeal, fast weight loss, washboard abs in ten minutes a day, and spiritual maturity in a week.

It just won’t happen that way, folks. Some things just take time.

Case in point: I am getting a new driveway this week. Monday the guys showed up to do the demolition, Tuesday they finished that and built the forms, today they started pouring concrete. The foreman told me this morning that I can drive on it in five to seven days. Five to seven days? I want to park in my garage tonight, for goodness’ sake! But I can’t; and it is because it will take the concrete time to set up, and harden. My father-in-law, a retired commercial contractor, told me once that it takes concrete 28 days to fully harden. It just takes time-no matter how many guys the company sends to work on my driveway, I can’t use it for a while. And I’m OK with that, actually.

I have been following a practice in my daily devotions (the time I spend each day in the early morning hours when I read Scripture, pray, reflect, and journal) this week that I have not used in a while. I am writing out my sins. I sit down, and ask God to let me see my life through His eyes over the last 24 hours. After doing this for three days, I have noticed a disturbing trend: a good bit of anger and frustration, usually rooted in impatience. It has to do with traffic, people beating around the bush, and too many details.  (By the way, I shred what I write, as I ask God to forgive me and to give me freedom from these sins; the sound of the shredder is amazingly liberating!)

I think what I am hearing is the call to “Be still, and know that I am God;” (Psalm 46.10); to relax, and let God work in me.

But I think too, I am hearing the reeminder that God created me as a human being, not a human doer. Our culture so seems to value accomplishment over character, that we are sped along to find value. Value comes through God, and interacting with others, not in plaques (or degrees?) on a wall.

Somehow I have the sneaky suspicion that I am not the only one who is wrestling with this. So slow down, reader, enjoy the life that God has given you.