When I first met my husband (called H from here onwards), and for the first seven years of our relationship, we joked about our four wheeled transport– not a car, but a bike each. We cycled everywhere.
A few years ago when we were trying to salvage our marriage from the wreckage, we decided we’d try to start cycling together again. We try to go out once a week for a ride through the woods we live close to. It’s been less frequent in recent months because H picked up some injuries, he’s been working away from home and life at the weekends has been a bit hectic.
This weekend a work colleague gave us tickets she had bought but couldn’t use, for a major golf tournament near our home. It’s been ages since we’ve had any sort of relaxed time together without our children so we decided to go on Sunday after church. It was H’s idea to ride our bikes the 40 minutes it would take to get there. ‘That’ll make it perfect’, were his exact words.
And on those 40 minutes there and 40 minutes back, God showed himself to me as I saw how my husband loves me. In recognizing that love, I understood, maybe for the first time in a long time, what God’s love is actually about.
This is what I learned of God through two wheeled travel and an afternoon date.
- H chose me.
H is about 10 inches taller than me. He used to play top-level amateur sport. He is bigger, stronger and a much better cyclist than I. H chose to cycle with me. He wanted to spend time with me. Being with me was what mattered, not how fast we were going, or when we would get there.
I’m sure you know that in cycling if you fall in behind another cyclist you can gain the benefit of them facing the wind resistance instead of you. You ride in their wake and use much less effort. Usually in racing, riders take it in turns, but H stayed in front taking the pressure off me every time we got to a hill. And as he cycled ahead of me he turned every 30 seconds or so to check that the pace he was setting was one that I could keep up with. He wanted me to be close to his back wheel, and if the distance between us widened, he would change his pace to allow me to get close again.
- He looked out for me
A couple of times we had to move out across traffic. He checked for both of us. He gave me a shout when it was all clear. He’d looked at the route before we set off, and signalled to me when we needed to turn. I just had to follow.
- He came alongside me
When there was a broad path alongside the road H cycled on it so that we could be side by side. We were able to talk as we rode, about the journey, about what we were seeing, about other things too. He wanted to hear me. He wanted to share the experience and his words with me too.
- He carried the bag
We are pretty cheap dates, so we had water bottles and snacks with us, as well as sweaters, wallets and phones. H carried them – my things and his things. His aim was to make me as comfortable as I could be for the ride. He suggested water breaks, and didn’t ever push me to keep going further or faster than I could.
- When we were in sight of home he went on ahead
I had suggested he go ahead of me so that he could get a good speed up. When we were a mile or two from home and it was mostly downhill, he set off. I felt totally comfortable and safe – I knew the way, and I knew I’d make it. He wasn’t right beside me but I knew that if I took too long he’d come back to check I was ok.
I’m not going to draw out the parallels with God because I’m sure you can see them yourself, and maybe you all know that God behaves like that towards you. I guess I’ve been stuck in a place of not really believing that God likes me. I sort of feel like he loves me because he has to; not because he chooses to. But yesterday in seeing how H kept choosing me just because he wants to be with me, even though he knows all that I’ve done including all the things I’ve done which have hurt him and damaged him, I saw anew what the love of God is like. I realised that it’s not about testing me, or pushing me. It’s a love that walks alongside and carries my load when I’m willing to give it up. Too often in the past with both God and my husband I’ve been far too determined to try to show that I can manage fine by myself and I’ve not accepted the unconditional love, support and help that is there for me.
I’m still trying to get my head around it all today, because it is so at odds with the way I’ve been relating to God recently. I’ve felt so ashamed of my past behaviour that I’ve not been able to believe that He wants to look at my face and have me near Him. But He does.
Bicycles and love. It’s a kind of parable.