Last week Nancy and I were on vacation in north central Minnesota at Lake Belle Taine. We go to an area that Nancy’s family has been camping in for 50+ years. In fact, you might say that part of our honeymoon was spent at Camper’s Paradise on Lake Belle Taine. So, almost every year we spend about a week at this same campground – a somewhat rustic and heavily wooded island that is a nothing but a campground.
One of the things I like about this area we go to is that there are a couple of great biking trails close by. One is the Heartland Trail. The other is the Paul Bunyan Trail. Both are former railroad lines that have been converted to paved hiking and biking trails. They are really nice and I love to bike on them.
Well, last Saturday I decided to do a major ride on a section of the Paul Bunyan Trail that I’ve never ridden before. My daughter, Melissa, decided to join me for the adventure and our goal was to cover about 35 miles. It was a beautiful day, the scenery was wonderful, the company was fantastic, and the riding was great.
Now the Heartland Trail, at least the section that I have ridden previously, is really pretty flat. There might be a slight incline and decline in the grade of the trail, but really, it’s quite flat. However, after riding for a bit on the Paul Bunyan Trail, we came upon a sign that said, “Sections of this trail are not suitable for roller-bladders, people in wheelchairs, or inexperienced bicyclers.” Looking at a map told us there were sections of the trail ahead with up to an 8% grade, meaning we were going to be doing some hill climbing or downhill coasting.
Sure enough, the trail started getting a bit hilly. There were points we were downshifting on our bikes and pedaling hard to make it to the top of the hill, and then there were other points we were cruising effortlessly down the hill following the twists and turns of the trail. That part was a blast!!!!
During one of our rest stops, Melissa and I were talking about how much fun the coasting downhill was. But as we talked, we also realized that in order to have the fun and ease of the downhill ride it meant we also had to the uphill climbing and work. “Oh, if we could only coast all the way.” was our thought, but we both knew that wasn’t the reality of our situation.
Some would say that the “Church” has been experiencing the downhill ride for a while, meaning work has been minimal, the ride has mostly been fun and for the most part, rather easy. However, in recent years things have been changing. Church is no longer the center of society, it’s no longer the only thing to do on Sunday. Today’s culture tends to downplay the importance of religion. Faith and spirituality is often pressed into a different place in our society and even in our own lives by everything else going on during a weekend. In other words, the Church is having to work to show its relevance in the world. The Church is having to consider new ways of being “the Church,” and even what it means to be “the Church” in our world. This is hard work! It feels like we’re pedaling uphill…because we are.
Even in our local church, we’re having to consider doing some things in different or new ways. It’s not always easy, but the benefit of making the uphill climb is knowing that at some point, there will be the joy of the ride when one gets to experience the benefit of the hard work. God is up to something and is at work in our world…and even in our church. That is what keeps me going, especially when the pedaling gets hard.