I’ll bet that “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus” is on everyone’s list of top ten Primary songs. Lately, while observing the actions of others, several times I’ve had the Spirit poke me on the shoulder and say, “Look at that Nannette! That’s like Jesus.” Here’s just one example:
“Feed the Fire!” That’s what we call any activity that puts members of our family into the great outdoors. “Feed the Fire” activities usually involve some physical exertion. Sometimes we “Feed the Fire” solo and sometimes in groups. We’ve individually tackled mountains going up and mountains coming down (my personal favorite). We’ve relayed and triathloned and marathoned, and beyond. We’ve biked, hiked, walked, run and swum (is that a word?). We’ve gone 5k, 10k, half the day, and days and days. We’ve put our kids on our backs, drove them beside, pulled them behind, and left them behind. We have experienced the thrill of our own little victories, like crossing the finish line and the agony of defeat. Or should I say the agony of “de-feet.” We’ve beat our time and wiped out trying to stop on a dime and pretended we were “fime.” We’ve broken bones and been heard to moan…OK I’ll stop! As you can tell I’m no poet, but I think you get the idea. We’ve had a variety of together experiences and a lot of fun.
Each summer I try to participate in at least one “Feed the Fire” activity that stretches me a bit. This last spring I received a mass family e-mail from my nephew, inviting me to participate in a fifty mile bike ride. I replied immediately. “Yes! I’m in!”
I’m not what you would call a serious biker, but on my fiftieth birthday, during my surprise party lunch at Mimi’s, I glanced out the window while I was opening my gifts and my son was riding a brand new little mountain bike up and down the street in front of the restaurant hoping to get my attention. Since that day my birthday bike and I have put in some serious miles an hour at a time but never fifty all at once. I was excited!
I got as prepared as I knew how; took some nice one hour rides throughout the spring and early summer and made sure they included a few hills. I knew I’d be slow compared to the others, but I couldn’t afford a new road bike so I focused my preparation on my need to be comfortable; new sunglasses I could actually see through, biker pants with padding where most needed, and a speedometer to let me know if I was breaking the speed limit and to document every one of those fifty miles.
My nephew, the instigator or this activity is a twenty-eight year old husband, daddy of two boys and one little girl, with a baby on the way. He’s a nurse at a local hospital. He’s a great guy and quite the outdoorsman. I imagined him greasing up his “super bike” and getting it all ready for the big day. He’s also very spontaneous and usually pretty casual about things. I figured this would be a pretty loosely run event.
As the pre-activity weeks progressed I was very surprised to receive regular e-mails, “Hey everyone, I hope you’re still planning on the 50 mile ride. I’m so excited! Hope you are!” His final e-mail announced plans for transporting us and our bikes to the starting point. “At mile 30 we will be stopping for a little brunch in a park overlooking the lake. Hope you’re all getting ready. I’m excited!!!” I was beginning to get the idea that this adventure was not just being thrown together. This was an event!
Well, the morning of the “Feed the Fire Family Fifty” finally arrived. My bike was tuned up, the speedometer installed, and my camelback was ready to go. I had no idea where we were going or if I could make it all the way, but I was going. The transport arrived before dawn. There was a bit of a chill in the air. All bikes were loaded in the back of a Suburban, and we headed to the designated starting point.
After we were gathered we each received a sticky-backed logo to place on our bike in a visible place –“FTF” for “Feed the Fire!” Very Cool!!!
My nephew’s car was packed up with emergency equipment along with the brunch food. The plan was for someone to drive the car along with our group in case of any emergency, exhaustion, or need for supplies. We would take turns.
My nephew opted to take the first turn as driver of the emergency vehicle. Then he took the second turn and the third turn and the fourth turn…
“Wait a minute!” I said after a little careful observation, “You need to ride too!”
“No, I’ll be fine.”
“You mean you planned this whole thing, went to all this effort and you’re not going to even get on your bike?”
“No, I’m fine. I’ve ridden this route lots of times to prepare for this. Believe me, I know every turn in the road. I just want to make sure everyone has a good experience and makes it to the finish.”
So eleven of us pedaled and chatted and enjoyed the view of the lake and the mountains, and he drove ahead and waited until we had all safely past. Then he would drive on a little more. Sometimes he’d stop us and give some instructions like, “In about a mile we have to ride on the highway for a little stint. Be sure to ride single file.” Sometimes he would just encourage us, “The next part is up hill, but it’s pretty gradual, you can make it!” At one point we had to ride through a city, maneuver through quite a bit of traffic, pretend we were all cars, and get into the left-hand lane and turn. It was tricky but before we did it he explained exactly what was coming up and what had to be done.
He served us as a group, but he also served us individually. For some reason my bike is just not as fast as everyone else’s. Whenever I’m riding with other people I pump my little legs off trying to catch up and stay up. Well, this time was no exception. It was worse! For the life of me I could not keep up with the group. My friend and brother-in-law kept me company for several miles. At one point he said, “You’re working harder and making less headway than any of us. What’s the deal? Let’s trade bikes for a minute.” We traded and I zoomed out ahead. When we met up with my nephew, he checked out my bike, the one I had been riding for 40 miles. “Aunt Nan, one of your brakes has been clamped on the whole time you’ve been riding!” He quickly fixed the problem and my worn out legs were off to the finish line. What a difference the release of a little old brake can make. When we got back to our cars, my speedometer read 48.9 miles so I took a few turns around the parking lot until I had scientific evidence that I had finished the “Family Fifty.” We all finished. It was a “Feed the Fire” success!
Now here’s the point. All I had done was show up. All I had was the willingness to take a very long ride. I was really not physically trained for such a ride and I had no idea where I was going. This was a “Feed the Fire” success because someone else had been willing to feed “The Fire” inside of each one of us.
“Look Nannette. That’s like Jesus” I heard the Spirit whisper as I thought back on the day. We sing “I’m Trying To Be Like Jesus” and we are trying. Just look around at the ordinary people in your life. Every day someone in our lives does something remarkable that’s “like” Jesus in some aspect. It might be something Jesus never did while He was on the earth. The person may be wearing biking shorts or jeans or a suit. It’s like Him only dressed up in “today.” But when they do what they do, it teaches us about Him, His understanding, His power, His character, his love…always His love. There is no story in the New Testament about Jesus sacrificing to facilitate a family bike ride but somehow my experience with my nephew–just an ordinary guy– taught me about Jesus, brought me to Him. When someone is like Jesus in some little way it does something remarkable for other people.
My sincere thanks to all the blessed individuals I have the opportunity to be with in the flesh who help me come to know someone I can only be with in the Spirit. You help bridge the gap. You are not the Savior, but you show Him to me. Your actions and attitudes are much more than instruction on Christ-like behavior. They are a physical picture or reminder of the One who loves me. The One I can count on to lead me home. The one who might have said, “I’m fine. I’ve taken this ride countless times in preparation for your journey. Believe me, I know every turn in the road. I just want to make sure everyone has a good experience and makes it to the finish.”
By Nannette W., Posted Monday, December 6, 2010
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