I’m not sure I can communicate how I’m feeling about a milestone I hit today but I’ll give it a shot. It feels kind of like I’m bragging or saying, “Look at me! I’m a big deal” but that’s not what I’m feeling at all.
This Spring I set a crazy goal for myself. I decided I wanted to ride 70 miles in 7 days by July 1. I know, I know … you people who ride a lot ride 200 miles in 7 days. My fitness app even whistles every time my friend Warren Cook finishes a ride out in his Ohio flat lands. I see his totals of 40 or 50 miles per ride and am hugely impressed because he’s now an old guy like me. (Sorry, Warren)
But for me, my 70 mile goal was pretty significant when you take into account that 14 months ago I could not walk 100 feet. Fifteen months ago I spent 26 of 31 days in a hospital bed having been deemed “too sick” for the liver transplant I needed to save my life. Nine months ago, four and a half months after my organ donor saved my life, I completed a 10 mile ride and rode across a finish line to the tearful cheers of family and friends waving flags and holding signs. I couldn’t walk when I got off my bike. My legs were too shaky and limp.
I like to set crazy goals. I like to push to see if I can achieve them. My hope is not to impress anyone. It’s more that I want to prove something to myself. Goals help keep me moving forward.
During training last fall I had a couple times when I reached 20 miles in a week. I wish I could adequately tell you the range of emotions you experience when you go from nearly dead to pedaling a bike. Last Thursday I pedaled 26.25 miles from Westbrook to Scarborough to Gorham to Buxton. Every single time I passed a town line marker I marveled.
But here’s the thing; I was not marveling at my accomplishment. Cruising into the next town, not once did I think, “wow, I’m something else.” Every mile I notch, every time my iPhone app clicks off another, I think, “Man, my God is powerful.”
No, really, I’m serious. This recovery of mine has left me overwhelmed by God’s favor and His care for me. When I was wasting away, I fought the temptation to focus on “why me” pity. When I had gotten to the point of being unable to wash myself or control my bodily functions, I struggled with thinking I deserved better. And honestly, sometimes I doubted God heard me or loved me because He was letting me suffer. I think that’s a normal, human part of suffering. Even though I felt him close by, I wondered why he didn’t seem to be intervening much.
And now, I wonder again, “why me?” Why does God love me like He does? Why is He so patient with me? Why am I experiencing remarkable recovery while I have transplant friends who are dealing with pain and complications months and years later? Why me, Lord?
This God of mine loved me during my darkest, loneliest days. He held me while I cried out in pain. He cried with me and never turned his back on me. He walked with me through the “valley of the shadow of death.” His still small voice whispered faithfulness to me. This Jesus I follow made me more like himself and brought me through the pain and rescued me.
And now, this God of mine loves me through every little side-effect and inconvenience. He is loving me and restoring me to better health than I have known in more than 20 years. He has granted me bonus days to love my neighbors and make a difference in people’s lives. I am so very thankful for what my God has taught me and how he has shaped me through this journey.
Today, pedaling on the beautiful Maine coast with my young friend, Levi, I told my story again. I told him about the love and faithfulness of my God and confidently urged him to put his trust in Jesus no matter what comes in life. But then, when mile number 4 clicked off, I told him we needed to stop. I handed him my camera phone, hoisted my bike over my head and asked him to snap some pictures.
I told Levi that we were at my 70 mile mark and told him of the crazy goal I set a few months ago. But holding that bike above my head was not at all a testimony to myself or my efforts. I hoisted it into the air to say, “look what God has done!”
I wish I could better explain what I felt holding my bike over my head today. If only I could fully express my emotion and feeling like I would burst with praise.
My hope tonight is that you might be inspired to trust God. I am absolutely confident that my God loves you and is for you. I know beyond a doubt that no matter where you are or what you are going through, my Jesus longs to walk with you and give you strength.
How can I be so sure? Scroll back up to the top of this page and look at that picture again. It’s an undeniable demonstration of the grace, love, faithfulness and power of the God who never turns away from you.
I know it. I just do.
Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. Romans 8:26-28 The Message