Last Thursday was one of those Seattle surprises, with blue skies in April and temperatures climbing into the 70s. I took the opportunity to go for a long bike ride around the south end of Lake Washington. I wasn’t looking for a life lesson, but I got one before the ride was complete.
The bike route from our house in Madison Valley around the south end of the lake is about 30 miles long. The ride was spectacular – for the first 25 miles. I cycled across the I-90 floating bridge in the bike lane, crossed Mercer Island on quiet streets, then followed bike paths and lanes on around through Factoria, Renton, and up Rainier Avenue back to Seattle. I reveled in the sunshine, warm temperatures, and light traffic.
I was thoroughly at peace with the world as I entered the last leg of my ride, from Seward Park along Lake Washington and back home. That particular section of roadway is very special to me. I’ve ridden it literally 100s of times, and I still remember a day shortly after Jim G and I rode across the United States that I was cycling along the lake and realized that I was riding through the most beautiful biking spot in the nation, at least in my opinion. Just as on that day, last Thursday I pedaled beside blossoming trees and the shimmering lake, riding far to the right on a section of Lake Washington Blvd. that is wide enough for cars and bikes to safely co-exist.
Suddenly I felt something slightly squishy hit my left buttock, and a sense of cold ran down my leg. Someone in a passing car – an ugly beige sedan with a license plate that began and ended in the letter “A,” had thrown a large soft drink at me. No physical damage was done to either me or my bike – I didn’t even slow down - but the emotional sore caused was deep and throbbing.
I had a typical reaction for me – my own version of an Incredible Hulk moment. I got very angry, purple-face-and-throbbing-jugular angry. I fantasized that I had super powers, that I became an X-Man at least for a few minutes, with Magneto’s ability to control metal and Wolverine’s looks to match my fury (and because I’ve always wanted to look like Hugh Jackman). I imagined using my powers to grab the accursed car, flip it upside down and shake it until the pimply-faced perpetrators fell out of the windows, and then chasing them into the middle of the lake while roaring like a rabid animal.
That was fun for about 10 seconds. Then I thought about calling the police, but figured it would be a waste of everybody’s time. I had little information and we weren’t exactly talking about assault with a deadly weapon. Then I thought that maybe the car would get stopped by the ubiquitous road construction along the lake and I’d be able to catch up and confront my tormentors.
And then I remembered something that I posted on this website just a few weeks ago as part of our Online Good Friday Experience. Something about forgiveness. While Jesus was being crucified, a fate far worse that attack by carbonated beverage, he forgave his executioners and tormentors. He forgave people who didn’t ask for it, probably didn’t even want it, while they were in mid-act. We quoted Bishop Andrew ML Dietsche who wrote, “Forgiveness is not a response to anything. Rather it is a gospel way of always being in the world, always making a witness to the Love of God… Forgiveness is simply the fruit of that deeper virtue which dwells in the soul, always ready, always alive.”
Well I didn’t forgive my attackers during the attack, or even in the first few minutes after the incident, but I sort of forgave them before I finished my ride. I forgave them as well as I am able to forgive, which really isn’t very well at all but at least it’s better than continuing to let my blood boil out of my ears.
And once again I learned that we tend to get forgiveness backwards. We don’t forgive people because of the impact that has on the wrongdoers. We forgive because it is good for the wronged. We forgive so that we can get on with our lives with a little more love and a little less indignation. We forgive so we can once again notice the gorgeous weather and spectacular scenery.
We forgive because we need to, so we can keep riding.
This blog includes thoughts from various contributors at Seattle First Baptist