Some days our path in life seems straightforward. We get up, we do what we planned to do, and at the end of the day we feel good about it.
I haven’t had many days like that recently. Have you?
Take this week. On one hand there is news of yet another mass shooting, more hate crimes, more obscene fearmongering dressed up as politics as usual. On the other, more personal hand, my siblings and I are still coming to grips with the recent death of our brother Dave. Lucy, our sweet rescue dog, apparently has a truckload of emotional baggage which is manifesting itself through some very smelly behavioral problems. And Jim G is visiting his family in Missouri, leaving me on my own with two needy dogs, wet piles of fallen leaves, and an increasingly messy house. I haven’t even pretended to have a plan for each day.
This morning was going to be different. I was going for a long bike ride. I know from past experience that nothing helps me cope with life better than a few hours on my bicycle. First thing this morning I checked the weather – my app of choice predicted clouds but only a 20% chance of rain and temperatures close to 60 degrees. So I walked, fed and medicated the pooches, ate breakfast myself, tucked Lucy into her kennel, dressed in my biking gear, and headed for the garage. As the door rolled up I heard an unexpected sound. Rain. Crap! But I was desperate. I pulled on a raincoat, got on my bike, and pedaled off into the rain. I figured it would just be a shower – that pesky 20% chance of precipitation.
I was wrong.
I rode for nearly three hours – that’s how long it takes me to go 28 miles these days – and it rained nearly constantly. Droplets covered my glasses, and every time I stopped at a traffic light my lenses fogged up. It was one of those days when the wet from the inside – sweat – and the wet from the outside – rain – met in the middle and made me completely soggy.
And I loved it.
It reminded me of the years when I usually rode my bike to work. In sun, rain, even in snow one time, I’d ride my bike for 7 miles or more, depending on how indirect the route was that I chose to take to the office. I’d leave the house in a mental fog and get to work with a clear head and fresh air in my lungs. In really wet weather I’d be one of the few riders hardy enough to still bike in, and that made me feel extra good – even a little macho.
For me, riding my bike, rain or shine, helps me find some peace in the world. It helps me cope with life, on personal and communal levels. I know this about myself. I know that as long as I can ride safely (riding on ice is not recommended – my pride still hurts from that time I fell in front of 10 people on First Avenue) I will feel better following a ride.
I believe that life in general has some similar rules. We can rarely control the news. We can’t personally fix our hate-filled, greed-motivated, power-obsessed world. But we can choose how we respond to whatever happens.
Around 700 BCE the prophet Micah confronted a world gone very wrong, and rhetorically asked, “What should I do?” And here is how the prophet answered that question:
Listen here, mortal:
God has already made abundantly clear
what “good” is, and what YHWH needs from you:
simply do justice,
and humbly walk with your God.
(Micah 6.8 - The Inclusive Bible)
We can’t personally fix the world. We can’t stop the violence that rampages around the globe. But we can decide how we will live our lives each and every day.
Personally, I know one thing I’m going to continue doing as long as I am able. I’m going to keep riding my bike, even in the rain.