Wearing down

Wearing down

As this Monday rolls around, I’m nearing the end of Wesley Foundation’s annual tour de faith bike trip. We’ve covered 180 miles so far, which is about typical for this point in the tour. And as is also typical, we are wearing down.
Bike trip is, among other things, a great emptying. Spending five hours a day atop a bicycle in 90 degree heat is a grueling–if stylish–form of self mortification. To follow that up with four or five hours of mission work with our newfound neighbors is to push out bodies and minds well beyond the comfortable.
An old sports and military saw has it that fatigue makes cowards of us all. Perhaps. But I know fatigue makes grouches of us all, to the point that a scheduling blip or friendly jibe can elicit the snappiest of responses from otherwise reasonable people.
But that’s the point of TdF–to go near the limits of our easily frazzled nerves, and yet still treat one another with patience and kindness. To give more of ourselves, even when we think we have nothing left to give. To mirror Christ, who could still speak words of blessing even as he suffered toward an unfair and agonizing death.
I’m not going to judge how our group is doing in that regard. Suffice to say that we have both failed and succeeded in modeling Christ, and that we mostly cover the failures with forgiveness.
But I do want to raise the question, in both myself and others. Who are we really, when fatigue and struggle have robbed us of our facades? How do we treat our neighbors when we are decidedly at our worst?
The only way to know is to stretch our limits, to make ourselves vulnerable to petty selfishness and anger, and to find a way to overcome the resulting temptations. This is the example Jesus set for us when he fasted forty days in the wilderness. By the time life caved in on him during Passover, he had developed habits of grace that sustained his character so that his light shined as death closed in.
Whether we do it through fasting or quiet self denial or riding two hundred miles on a bicycle, we need to find our limits intentionally and develop–with equal intent–a habit of being at our best, even when we are at our worst. May God grant us grace to so grow in love that we still reflect Jesus, regardless of what comes our way.

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