I hate biking.
Before you take to tsking me (because seriously, if that is your heart’s desire, start with something bigger, like my tongue ring, that I think Star Wars is boring or my propensity to sneak ice cream from the freezer at 9 in the morning), I know there to be no better way to spend a summer day for youths of all ages than to go freewheeling along every available road and flying down grassy knolls. My brother and I spent countless hours and days throughout our childhoods out biking through the orchards, playing police (pretty sure we ticketed a visiting auntie for illegal parking more than once. Do the math on the interest on that unpaid citation) and I truly believe that if more boys spent their days out getting bloody on a bike instead of gluing their faces to screens, our daughters would have more real men to choose from later on.
But that is the thing — the blood. I simply don’t have a stomach for the gore that is summer biking.
Some say that it is the appearance of blooms, the first strawberry on the plant, or the twittering of some nameless bird that first speaks of summer having truly arrived (for my husband, it has to do with the smell of PVC pipe primer, but we just smile and nod politely when he mentions it). For me, it is the first child to come into the house, dripping blood and tears on the carpet.
I know the drill by now — hose them down while they scream about how they think the gravel would actually be happiest living in their knee/elbow/palm/face for the foreseeable future (man, are these kids related to me or what?) while I tell them the story of when Grandmarme took a tumble on her bike as a kid and the scrape was so big that her mom had to bandage it with a diaper. It oddly never made me feel better to hear this story when I was a kid, and it doesn’t really seem to do the job for my kids either, but traditions are worth preserving, so I tell on. Determine how many tubs of Neosporin I will need to cover the wounds and whether or not simple bandaids will do it, offer them chocolate. We have become a well-oiled machine, but I do not yet enjoyed the prospect of watching the disasters happen.
I tell you this so that you will be all welled up with compassion and admiration for my grit when I tell you that I am writing this from a scratchy swing outside by the road while the smaller quail bike. The reason is simple — my boy quail, after biking a few minutes this morning by himself while I set the daily bread to rise (my, don’t I sound the domestic goddess… really just trying to put off a grocery store run until payday), popped back in, head hung at a decidedly dejected angle, and asked, “What do you do when you get a case of the lonelies?”
Well. That is the question, isn’t it? On the one hand, he speaks the sentiment that has been ricocheting about the echo chamber of my own soul of late. Conventional wisdom became conventional for a reason, I assume, so “be a friend to have a friend” seems like good counsel. But there seem to be limits… more on this later.
On the other hand, I enjoy that my boy quail is quite gracious towards all who are willing to trek out into the amateur slasher movie that is summer biking in the house of Braendlein (you think I am exaggerating. I am not. This same son, while walking across a flat surface, managed to trip and land on a heating vent. The cut in his forearm was so deep, that a layer of brown fat was oozing out of his person. Did you know that if you get a deep enough cut, it looks like tapioca pudding mixed with runny strawberry jam? I do). He does not require much of his companions — he wants me to watch, to see the ways he is improving, the things he is working so hard on, the fun that is biking and crashing and not dying.
That is rather what we all crave, isn’t it? We want a witness to our lives, someone to cheer when we crash and survive, someone to stand alongside and holler to the skies that God has done a thing and much to our astonishment, He used me to do it! I suppose that makes friendships seem inherently selfish from a certain vantage point… marriages too, if we are honest… because when we feel lonely, the gaping hole we are experiencing often comes down to feeling unseen on the journey. It is not the God has ceased working wonders. It is that the praise feels muted from just the one of me. Having a witness helps in pulling our attention out of ourselves, makes us sing louder because we are singing in concert. And when we do, inevitably, skid and effectively peel back all the skin from our shins or elbows, a witness runs for help when the bleeder cannot run at all.
What do we do with a case of the lonelies… I think it depends. If the loneliness is because no one knew you were biking, then return to the conventional wisdom — go and tell them! Go befriend someone standing around with a bike, or a cup of coffee, and ask them to come along, that you might play witness for one another. Extend the invitation, show the interest, cheer when you observe God working in their lives, insinuate yourself amongst the people you long to be biking with.
But if, as you read this, you are already the bleeder on the ground with spiritual pea gravel digging deep into your knees, I suspect the solution may be different. If you have been out biking already, if the person who was your witness is no longer able or willing to be and you find yourself skinned up and feeling the depths of your aloneness, then it is time to holler. The lonelies sometimes drive us to human friendship and spousal comfort, but they should always drive us to God. Shout louder and plead with Him to stop the bleeding — you know He is the only one who can. He gave it to you, after all. If He uses another person, a spouse, or a community, then thanks be to God. But we have to become people who can admit that He may not — with no eye twitching, no hesitation, no attempt to explain away the seeming cold-heartedness of our Maker. He is not cold. Your crash is by His design, as is your current loneliness (watch me making the assumption that absolutely everyone is feeling the way I do. But do you?), and it will not end until He declares it finished. Do not keep silent.
Your gore may be too much for another person. It is never too much for the One who turns your gore into glory — YOU are not too much for Him.