On a bike, weight matters a lot. Gear, accessories, and even clothing are marketed to cyclists by touting their weight in grams. However, the lightest frame and equipment won’t matter if food is weighing us down from the inside. Just so, on the spiritual journey what we carry internally can either weigh us down or fuel us for long stretches. It is important to learn from our own experiences what we need to energize us and what we need to let go of because it is weighing us down.
I have been riding a bike for most of my life, but I fell in love with cycling about twenty years ago. Over the past twenty years, I have been upgrading my gear, bike, and saddle, but it took a bad experience on the road for me to upgrade my diet. I don’t remember what I ate, something heavy and hard to digest, but the ride was unforgettable.
I wasn’t very far into my ride when the trouble began. Coasting to a standstill on the side of the road, I laid my bike and myself down on some unsuspecting family’s front lawn. Closing my eyes and concentrating on the cool shade of the trees helped distract me from how sick I felt. I swear my stomach was midway through a mutiny, and the internal struggle was not going my way. Sitting in the grass, my stomach settled enough so I could eat some candied ginger stored in my saddlebag. A little while longer and I felt I could get back on my bike and keep riding.
I still felt sluggish and low energy, but I finished. I have since learned that lean protein and light carbs two hours before a ride are good ways to fuel up before heading out. Now, my pre-ride ritual consists of a nonfat Greek yogurt and fruit smoothie with a side of toast and jam. I know this meal will keep me energized for the first two hours of a ride, then I snack every hour.
Just like the food we eat, learning to let go of what keeps us from journeying with our God takes time. It took me years to learn what weighs me down on a bike, just as it has taken years to learn what weighs my soul down. All the experiences, injuries, and losses of the past can sit in our gut, refusing to be digested. Instead of nausea on a bike ride, our journey can come to a screeching halt because of fear, anger, or grief over things we cannot let go. Like avoiding things too hard to digest on a ride, naming and slowly releasing things we no longer need is crucial for the spiritual journey. It is simple, but not easy: letting go of all the things we were never meant to carry on the way.
Letting go of what no longer serves us will not leave us running on empty. As we let go of the indigestible bits weighing us down, we free ourselves to receive whatever God gives. Like a pre-ride meal, the times and experiences of God that stay vivid over the years give us strength to continue our journey. Some moments come to us as grace, others we find through diligent practice and prayer, and both are much needed gifts for the long road ahead.
The spiritual journey is an endurance race; St. Paul ran it, but we can bike it too (2Tim 4:7). We spend our lives on the journey, and the more we can let go the freer we become. Take in what energizes, avoid the dead weight. We can trust the spiritual food God gives to keep us energized as we roll along and allow us to move and serve with ease, simply present to our spiritual journey with God.
By Amanda Carrier, RSM