A Long Weary Ride

mountain biker


Sweat poured down my face and every muscle quivered with exhaustion as I strained to push the bicycle pedal down one more time…then shifted to push the other pedal down yet again.  Twenty miles into a 26 mile mountain bike trek I reached the limit of my endurance, as I struggled up an incredibly steep and narrow mountain trail.

My speed had slowed to a crawl, using all my waning strength to barely force the tires to inch out one more revolution up the mountain.  With too little speed to maintain balance, I fell to the ground in an attempt to swerve around a rock in the middle of the path.

From the top of the ridge, my friend Joey called down, “How are you coming?” as he waited for me to catch up.  I struggled to my feet, dragged the bike upright, and began walking it up the trail.  I discovered, with relief, that I could walk both faster and easier than I could ride the bike.  After a few more steps, I began to wish I hadn’t even brought a bike.  The bike was dead weight, and riding the bike was worse than dead weight.  I could have hiked the trail much faster and easier than riding it!

It wasn’t an issue of training.  In 2002, I was training for a half-marathon, and was in as good a physical condition as I’ve ever been.  I was fit, trim, and conditioned to long strenuous exercise in hot humid conditions.

I had done a few bicycle rides with Joey, on highways near home, and had pretty well held my own in keeping up.  So when Joey invited me on a mountain bike trek and explained that it was less than half of a “real” mountain bike ride, I felt pretty confident that I could handle it.

So why, three-quarters through the ride, was I struggling in complete exhaustion to climb a steep grade while Joey cheerfully rested at the top?

It was a difference of equipment.  Joey had recently purchased a nice light-weight high-strength professional-level mountain bike complete with clip-on shoes that enabled him to pull as well as push.

In comparison, my bicycle was basically a cheap street bike with the addition of front shock absorbers.  My bicycle weighed at least ten times as much as Joey’s bike, was driven by push-pedalling alone, and had less gear-ratio advantage.

Joey’s bicycle was an engineering masterpiece especially designed for assisting the rider in climbing steep grades on rough narrow trails.  On those same trails, my bicycle was just additional dead weight to slow me down.

I did finish the trail, but I also learned the equipment I was relying on for help was more liability than assistance.  Rather than helping me achieve the goal, the heavy bicycle had become an additional burden, making a difficult task nearly impossible to achieve.

Is this what Jesus was talking about when He spoke of weariness and heavy burdens?

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and  learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Speaking to people living in an agrarian society, Jesus used examples familiar to them.  A yoke and harness was a tool intended to aid an ox in pulling a load.  However, a poorly made yoke was too heavy.  Rather than aiding the ox, a heavy yoke became an additional burden, causing a difficult task to become nearly impossible to achieve.

A well designed yoke, like a well designed mountain bike, is strong and light-weight, with no excess material.  It allows the ox to efficiently achieve the goal of transporting the load, without adding unnecessary weight to the burden.

A faith system based on striving to keep inflexible legalistic rules in an effort to please an angry God is like a poorly designed mountain bike.  It simply increases the burden of the weary traveler, rather than aiding in achieving the goal.

Jesus offered to replace that burdensome legalistic system with a strong, light-weight, effective system…if we will come to Him and enter His rest.

Have you ever struggled under the heavy burden of legalistic rules, trying to please a God who seems to demand the impossible?

[Linked to God Bumps , Scribing , WIPBeholding Glory , Graceful , Seedlings , Wellspring ]




29 thoughts on “A Long Weary Ride

  1. Great post, Joe. It seems I put myself under yokes: unrealistic expectations being one of the heaviest and bulkiest. He’s teaching me to embrace where I am right now, and focus on Him and the opportunities for each day. Some days I’m a good student, other days… not so much. PTL for grace and new mercies.

    Your bike metaphor is great. I love to ride too but with my old all-terrain bike, I stick to “rail trails.” There’s a lesson in that too 😉

    • Yes, it is so easy to fall prey to unrealistic expectations…I struggle with that myself.

      Thanks for the encouragement, Susan!

      Oh, and I love the “rails to trails” program! Great use of resources for nice flat straight biking trails! 😉

  2. What a great metaphor for life. I think so often, we want to drag our heavy legalistic systems on the upward climb. But Jesus constantly woos us to take his yoke. Thank you for the reminder today. Blessed by your words in this place every week. Glad you’ve linked.

  3. This is excellent! Yes, I’ve struggled to carry a legalistic burden and all the while claiming I wasn’t! I’m trying out that lighter bike now! 😉

    I host a link up on Wednesday called WIP (Work In Progress) Wednesday. We would love for you to join us!!

    • “Yes, I’ve struggled to carry a legalistic burden and all the while claiming I wasn’t!”

      So true, Mary Beth! Legalism is so deceptive that I often fall prey to it while claiming to walk in faith. I like His light-weight bike much better!

      Thanks for the invite! I took you up on the link-up…

  4. I love this analogy! That passage is one I have relied on so many times. What a relief to know we don’t have to carry heavy burdens like legalism and that His burden is light. Great post!

    • Such a wonderful relief to realize, anew, that the burdens aren’t from He who lifts our burdens, isn’t it Mindy?

      Thank you, so much, for your encouragement!

  5. In the past, I was burdened by legalism. “Do this!” “Don’t do that!” … And all along God was simply telling me forget the rules… just walk with me, my grace will lighten your load, my hand will guide your ways.

    • “…just walk with me, my grace will lighten your load, my hand will guide your ways.”

      I love how you put this, Dusty! So true!

  6. This is a beautiful picture. And told in a masterful way. What a picture, just what an amazing glimpse into how we do so often choose to live out our faith. Bless you for this post. Visiting from Duane’s and Jennifer’s today. Nice to meet you.

  7. Great post, Joe!

    Although now I’m singing Handel’s “Messiah” and the bouncy part is reminding me of what it might be like to bounce over a rocky trail on a bike! Hee 🙂 Well, it amused me.

    • Oh, Wow! I love Handel’s “Messiah”! I get goose-bumps (Jennifer would call them God-bumps) just listening to it. Such powerful words from Isaiah combined with such powerful music.

      And, yes, I know the bouncy part you’re talking about. Funny! 🙂

  8. Believe me, I’ve struggled many too many times with “heaviness”. And, just as you describe, I’ve sometimes chosen the less-than-practical and helpful elements. HOWEVER, the Lord has been very kind and nudged me to readjust my burdens and become sufficiently lightweight through His provisions.

    Good story. Very bright thinking.

    • Me too, Joanne!

      Once we realize that we’re carrying unnecessary burdens, it sure does feel nice casting those burdens on Him!

      Thanks, for sharing!

  9. I’ve avoided bicycles ever since falling off on when I was in elementary school. I couldn’t figure out how to brake, and I put my feet down. What a nightmare. I still have a big ol’ scar on one of my knees.

    Still, I appreciate the analogy. We make things so much harder than they have to be, sometimes! Lately, my unnecessary burden has involved paying too much attention to how other people are doing this Christian-walk thing. Social networking totally messes me up!

    Thank you so much for all your recent encouragement…

    • Hah!

      Brandee, your story reminds me of riding with my two youngest daughters when they were in grade school.

      The elder cut the younger off, and they both wound up in a tangle of bicycles and scraped knees.

      My youngest daughter tried to convince me to carry her bike home (about a city block’s distance), because her arm hurt. I insisted, instead, that she ride the bike home, because I didn’t want her to be scared of riding a bike in the future.

      Turned out, she had a minor green-stick fracture, and to this day she gives me a hard time about making her ride a bike with a broken arm. My only response: “Yeah, well…you’re not afraid to ride a bike, either, are you?”

      The trials of parenting! =^p

  10. So much of the time we don’t allow Christ’s strength to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves and then we wonder why we continue to struggle. I see myself in this metaphor, Joe. I need to surrender it to the One who can carry my burdens. Great post!

  11. Great analogy. Sounds just like one I heard in Sunday School class a while back. ; )
    In Acts 15, Peter spoke of the heavy yoke of legalism this way:
    Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? (Acts 15:10, NIV)

    • Oh, great reference, Brother Hal! I hadn’t even thought of that passage, but it is very fitting.

      In essence, “Jesus removed that heavy yoke of legalism, so don’t you dare try to put it back on His chosen!”

      Yes, my blogging and my Sunday School class tend to have a lot of overlap…in some ways I think of them as an extension of each other…

  12. Such a great illustration, Joe! God gives us the rut equipment to scale those hills effortlessly–or at least with a bit less effort than mine seem to require. I don’t know why I still hold on to my rules, my ways. Good food for thought.

    • We sometimes seem determined to cling to the no-pain/no-gain philosophy, while trying convince everyone else it’s the only way.

      Grace is so much less burdensome, isn’t it?

      Thank you, Laura!

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