Excuses, excuses

Every spring I pull my bicycle out of the storage shed and wheel it into the shop. Jack pumps up the tires for me. I hop on, circle the yard and pull it into the garage. I promise myself to take advantage of the glorious summer weather and make daily bike rides part of my regular routine. For the last three years the furthest I’ve ridden is to the mailbox and back.

This year the rear tire went totally flat the day after Jack had inflated it. He inspected it more closely and before I could say, “Honey, don’t bother,” he was on his way to the hardware store to buy a new inner tube. One hour and a couple of scraped fingers later my bike was all fixed up and ready to roll. Now that he had invested time, money and a little bit of blood into my summer fitness program I felt obligated to do my part.

Spending 40 minutes a day on a bicycle doesn’t sound like much. And honestly, I love to ride. But I have so many really great excuses. It’s too cold, too hot, too rainy or foggy. I’m too tired, too busy or there’s construction on the side road. But last Thursday morning was pain clinic day and I knew I would have about an hour to wait for Jack. I couldn’t think of any reason why I shouldn’t take my bike along and use the waiting time for a ride. All I did was mention the idea to Jack and he was loading the bike into the back of the pickup truck.

So there I sat in the parking lot at 6:45 a.m., thinking what a chilly morning it was and how I could use the time to do some reading or just take a nap. I looked over my shoulder at the bike in the truck’s box. Something told me I’d regret not taking a spin (not to mention I’d never live it down when Jack found out if I didn’t go).

Early summer mornings have a special ambiance – something peaceful, fresh and hopeful. And the world is so much prettier when travelling under 10 miles per hour. I rode through quiet neighbourhoods, past fine old houses and swanky modern ones. Some places were meticulously landscaped and tidy; others had toys strewn across yards overdue for mowing. I thought back to my childhood when I lived in town and a bike was a ticket to freedom.

Invigorated
In those days I would finish breakfast and head off on my bike, sometimes not returning home until the end of the day if I managed to mooch lunch at a friend’s house. Often I would ride alone, first through town and then out onto the back roads, listening to my tires hum over the chip and tar surface, feeling the summer breeze on my face and breathing in the scent of fresh cut hay.

I spent many days with a friend or two, biking to the public swimming pool 10 miles away. The ride there was never a problem, with the promise of a refreshing afternoon in the water ahead of us. The ride home was a different story – much more like work. Sometimes we rode double, although we were strictly warned against it. One of my friends had no bike and rode on the back of mine. My dad wondered how the rear carrier on my bike frequently came loose. I told him it was because of rough roads. I doubt he believed it, but he always tightened it up for me.

Our pathway
I pulled back into the parking lot with icy hands and an invigorated heart. The cornfield behind the hospital glistened with dew and the wheat field beside it glowed golden in the sunlight. I breathed deeply as I climbed back into the truck and wondered why on earth I made so many excuses for not riding my bike.

Then I realized that I often miss precious opportunities to experience life en route in its full glory – that abundant life the Bible speaks of. They say that happiness isn’t a destination, it’s a mode of travelling. Scripture says that Christ isn’t just our goal, he is our pathway. We stay on track or fall off the rails according to the little choices we make every hour of every day, including the excuses we come up with. How hard can it be to choose the best over the good?

Now that’s something I could think about more deeply, say while riding my bike down a country road. Tomorrow. For sure.

  • Heidi VanderSlikke lives on a farm in Mapleton Township with her husband Jack. They share their home with a gigantic Golden Retriever named Norton, who thinks he's a lap dog. Heidi and Jack have three happily married children and seven delightful grandkids.

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