One year ago, I attempted my first triathlon. I had a great time, and didn’t die, so I figured I would give it another try this year. While I have been training, its been hard to avoid learning a lot. My lessons haven’t been just about how to swim and not drown, or bike up hills, or run more efficiently, but Ive learned a lot about everyday life. I guess you have a lot of time to think and ponder life’s meaning while your head is under water. Exhalation bubbles can be very therapeutic.
This last Saturday, I learned another valuable lesson. This particular learning opportunity happened about 3 minutes into the bike route. I had just exited the transition and had turned and was heading up a big hill climb. I was pedaling my little heart out, but because of the grade, wasn’t going very fast. The only issue I was having had to do with my race bib. I had in the modesty position on a belt in the front, and It was crinkling and crackling each time I would pedal and was driving me crazy. So, I sat up just a little bit, and leaned over to twist my belt so the bib would be on my backside.
That little shift in weight was all it took. My back wheel came completely off the frame. As it came off, the bike seized up, and the wheels skidded to a halt. I instantly went from full speed to no speed, and was going down. My catlike speed and reflexes were apparently taking a cat nap, and so I was only able to unclip one foot, my left one- which was largely unhelpful of course, because the bike tipped over to the right-The side of my still clipped in foot.
I went down. I was a mass of legs, arms, hands, and bike. I was going so slow, it took what seemed like a full minute to actually hit the ground. Of course my first instinct was to look around and see just how many witnesses there were to my pathetic dismount. I could deal with broken bones, but my pride was also at risk. There weren’t any. This, of course, proved that sometimes amid our most trying times, small miracles do happen.
So, I spent the next 5 minutes, untangling myself, smacking wheels back into alignment, flipping the bike upside down, re-attaching the wheel, and tightening, then retightening it to prevent any repeats of my not-so-finest hour.
After hopping back on and resuming my ride, It only took another 10 seconds and I was over the top of the hill. Another 5 seconds, and I was screaming down the other side at over 30 miles an hour. Quite a different scenario. After another moment, I found myself praying and thanking my lucky stars that my wheel had fallen off when it did. Had the timing been different, this story might have been written with me in a body cast writing through a straw like Stephen Hawking. Timing is everything.
All that day I thought about what had happened, and how it relates to all of us. This is the lesson I was meant to learn that day. We sometimes look at the times in our life that are really hard as if we are being picked on. As if God is withholding his protective blessings from us even though we are trying as hard as we can to do what is right. We feel we deserve some downhill time. We cannot possibly take another problem, another pitfall, another trial, another difficulty. We feel that all too often when we are struggling the most, our wheels fall off, and we tip over, alone, on the side of the road.
The hard moments in our lives give us a choice. We can choose to be angry with God because he allowed our wheel to fly off right in the most difficult climbs, or we can try and see things as He does. We can accept that He loves us unconditionally and that He is aware of every little pain, feeling, insecurity, disappointment, and struggle that we deal with. Or, we can ignore it. We can choose to believe that He loves us, and will be watching out for us every step of the way, every climb, every spill, every failure, or we can choose to pretend we are on our own.
When we choose to accept our lives as something our Heavenly Father has orchestrated for our benefit, and that He is intimitely aware of what we need, and when we need it, we can feel peace. We can feel peace in the tough times as well as in the good times. He understands timing perfectly. I learned that lesson even more last Saturday, as I was the beneficiary of some extraordinarily good timing. Even though that “timing” meant my wheels had to fall off.
“God’s promises are not always fulfilled as quickly as or in the way we might hope; they come according to His timing and in His ways. … The promises of the Lord, if perhaps not always swift, are always certain.”
-Dieter F. Uchtdorf
When the Wheels Fall off
Many times I find myself amid an earthly race,
Furiously peddling just to finish in last place.
I think and hope that life should have some easy times as well,
And not just be survival- grinding, winding up a hill.
Like, shouldn’t there be downhills too? And not just uphill climbs?
A time to stop my pedaling- to rest, and clear my mind?
Its only fair that someone else would get that bitter pill,
And why would God then pick on me who’s struggling up a hill?
And then, just at the top, when I can see relief ahead,
The climb is ending, and at last, I’ll cruise downhill instead.
All the work, and all the struggle going up will soon pay off
Its then, exactly then sometimes, when all the wheels fall off.
To add insult to injury, my graceless fall ensues,
My arms and legs, and body parts go up, and down, then through
A windmill somersault, that leaves me staring at the sky
And on my back, I can’t help wonder why I even try.
It seems no matter what I do, I fall just short again,
disheartened, and convinced that I will never, ever win.
But now, somehow I get back up, untangle one more time,
tighten up the wheel that slipped and stopped my uphill climb.
I somehow manage to replace the wheel onto the frame,
and tighten, then re-tighten, and hop back into the game.
I shake my head and wonder why I didn’t check before
I won’t be making that mistake for race prep anymore.
But something happens in my heart and mind when I think back,
And realize the timing of the wheel-slip off the track.
Although untimely- to eat dust, and fall back in the race,
My turtle-pace of uphill speed had surely saved my face!
For now, just seconds after I enjoyed my awkward spill,
I find myself, now flying fast, at full speed down the hill.
I also think, through whistling winds, and blurry lines that pass,
“Oh, man! I’ll lose my skin if I go down right now and crash!”
I might have been the winner on a “Race Fails” YouTube clip,
Or slid a mile and scraped three feet of skin clean off my hip
I see the scary, and unpleasant fate that I escaped,
had just been traded for an unseen, tiny, little scrape.
I then thank God for waiting until just the perfect time,
To pick on me, kick off my wheel, right then- back on my climb.
My graceless, awkward, low speed fall, that barely marked my shirt
Had been a blessing in disguise! My crash had helped, not hurt.
And through this new perspective I look back, and I can see,
That timing, isn’t always what we think initially
We have a Heavenly Father who is watchful and aware
Who sometimes kicks the wheels off of your bike- because he cares!