I am a cyclist. Ok, maybe not. My bike did not cost as much as my car and I can’t keep a 20+ mph pace all day long. If those padded spandex shorts mean anything though, I am a cyclist. I have even managed to make two treks across the state of Michigan, 250 miles over the course of five days each time. So, when I see a post on Facebook about biking, I am inclined to share my knowledge (er, opinion), because after all, I am an expert. Ha!
A couple of weeks ago somebody had purchased a new bike and had taken her first ride. She said that she rode against the flow of traffic and wondered (despite the general rule, and actually even state law) what everybody else preferred. I gave my two cents and then watched as others chimed in. First, I was taken aback by how many people, whether they knew the rule or not, chose to ride against traffic. I guess I just assumed riding with the traffic flow was a given. Second, I noticed something interesting about the varying responses. For those that chose to ride against traffic, their reasoning was simply that it made them FEEL safer. They could see what was coming at them. The only explanations of true safety, beyond a feeling, were from a couple who followed the rule of riding with traffic.
This blog post is not actually about bike safety, but since I am on the subject (for a moment), let me give you a few reasons why it is good to follow the rule of riding with the flow of traffic:
- It is the law. You can actually be ticketed for riding against traffic and if there were an accident between you and a motorist, you would be at fault (if you live to tell about it).
- Riding with the flow of traffic has been a long standing rule and because of this motorists are typically not looking for cyclists going in the opposite direction. If you want to be seen, ride along with the cars.
- Not only do motorists not look for you coming at them, sometimes even looking, they cannot see you. This is especially true on hills and curves. This is why there are double yellow lines there, not allowing vehicles to pass one another. Curves and hills make the distance you can see ahead much less than on a straight flat path. Once a motorist sees you, it could be far too late to slow down. Riding with the flow of traffic makes you visible. Motorists (unless they are just being mean) will slow down until it is safe to get around.
- Cyclists are required to follow traffic laws and all signage and signals are made for those driving on the right (USA). Riding on the left, you will only see the backside of the signs that alert you to the things you need to know (stops, lanes, bumps ahead, construction, etc.).
- If you ride at night, riding against traffic means you will be blinded by headlights.
Now, back to what I really wanted to write about…Long after the responses to the inquiry stopped, I continued to mull over this post. I was thinking about something larger than which direction people choose to ride their bikes. I was thinking about the difference between FEELING and BEING safe and how we often make choices based on the former.
We want to see what is coming at us, so we ride against traffic.
We use self-preservation techniques as children that become unhealthy patterns later in life.
We choose shyness instead of exhibiting our God given gifts, talents, and abilities.
We make career choices based on what seems at the time to afford the most stability.
We hold back in fear of failure and rejection.
We do what FEELS safe.
What if feeling safe, we are not really safe at all?
I am reminded of the story of David and Goliath. The account can be found in 1 Samuel 17.
The Philistines had assembled against God’s people, the Israelites. For days and days, a giant named Goliath (understanding of his size is varying, between 6 and 9 feet tall, but whatever it was, he was larger than anybody in the Israelite army and very intimidating) stood out among the Philistine army and taunted the Israelite army. He called for JUST ONE man to fight him. If that one Israelite man was able to defeat (kill) Goliath, then the Philistines would serve them, but if Goliath defeated the Israelite man, the whole nation would become servants of the Philistines. Nobody came forward. 40 days into this ordeal, an Israelite boy named David was delivering lunch to his warrior brothers at their father’s request. Hearing what the giant had to say, David volunteered for the job. Saul (the king) tried to discourage David because he was just a young man, not trained for war, but to tend flocks. David was not a warrior, only a shepherd. David argued, telling the king of how he had killed large and ferocious animals, protecting his flock. The king agreed and dressed David in his own armor and gave him his own sword, preparing him to face this Philistine giant, Goliath. David quickly refused the armor though, not being used to them. Instead he took with him just five smooth stones and his sling. As he approached the giant, Goliath began taunting him, berating him for being just a boy. David stood firm though, told Goliath that God would deliver him, and sent the first stone flying from his sling. It hit Goliath squarely in the forehead, and he fell, dead. David, with just his sling and stones, had slain a giant. He then took Goliath’s own sword and cut off his head. The Philistines were delivered into the hands of the Israelites.
How would this story have changed had David done what FELT safe in the situation? Perhaps he would have chosen not to take lunch to his brothers. He never would have known about Goliath. Perhaps, seeing the giant, he would have delivered the lunch and run, leaving the Israelites in the same predicament they had been in for 40 days. Perhaps he would have worn Saul’s armor. I am sure, even if not used to it, a protective covering feels safer than facing a warrior giant in shepherd’s attire. I have a feeling the outcome would not have been the same. David would have awkwardly walked out to the giant, unable to maneuver in the cumbersome metal armor. He would have slowly raised the heavy sword, but swiftly, so fast that David could not even see it coming, Goliath would have taken a swipe with his own sword, killing David in seconds. The Israelites would have fallen into the hands of the Philistines.
David knew the difference between FEELING safe and BEING safe. David based his choices on the latter. He refused the armor than would offer him a sense (that’s a feeling word) of security and instead put all of his trust in God. Right before throwing the stone that ultimately fell the giant, David looked at him and said, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands” (1 Samuel 17:45-47, NIV). David has gone down in history for his bravery and trust in the Lord. Later he became king and even though his reign was not always pretty, he is known as a man after God’s own heart.
Trusting God is the safest place to be.
You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?”
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in humans.
2 Timothy 4:18
The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world
(All references are from the NIV.)
David knew this and his actions showed it. There are some who do not know. There are also those who know in their heads that this is true, but act differently. For some, it is just a case of relearning, of practicing putting their trust in God instead of their own devices. Still others know, but do not believe. Past wounds consume so they cannot wrap their heads around trusting God, knowing that He has not always prevented hurt. It is true, sometimes we get hurt, but when we trust in Jesus, we never walk into a situation alone.
When I was a little girl, I walked a few blocks to and from school alone each day. One day, a man approached me, asking me if I would like a ride. He had a large car filled with stuffed animals. Fortunately, I said “No!” and ran away. Later, we (my parents and I) were made aware that this man was a sex offender and he eventually went to jail. After that event, I did not walk to school alone anymore, but always in a group. Predators are less likely to take advantage of those in groups. They target those who are alone.
It is always safer to walk together, and who better to walk with than God—almighty, all powerful, always present. When you walk with Him, you don’t just FEEL safe, you ARE safe. While bad things will always happen in a world marred by sin, the world will never get the final say and you will go through each and every trial with One who loves you beyond measure.
Before I close out, I want to make sure that I am not encouraging poor choices. When I go out in the dark, I grip my keys in such a way that I could stab an attacker. My kids walk to school together instead of alone. I think it is good to be precautions. I simply noticed in this innocent post about riding a bike that what we FEEL and what we ARE are not always in harmony. Sometimes feelings lie and we assume something is safe that is not, like riding against the flow of traffic. Sometimes in an attempt to appease a feeling, we develop unhealthy patterns. Wherever you are on your journey, my prayer is that you will experience the grace to trust Jesus more, and for my cycling friends, I hope you have decided to take the safer route. Pedal on!