Summer Camp. One of the first places you spend long periods of time away from your parents. The place of bad cafeteria food, Cabin Leaders, and memories which stick with you the rest of your life. Lake Sallateeska was a summer camp I went to as a young boy. I would go with my RA group (a bunch of guys) for a week there. We would have bible studies, do activities, and make general mischief as well.
There are many stories which came from this camp. The time we chased a cabin leader around with a snake… The time a guy intentionally set off a fire alarm… The time where cabin cleanup turned into cabin mess-up… The time where a kid caught a 30lb carp (meant to clean the lake- not be caught)… The time where if you paid $1, you could have your head shaved… The kid who could open soda cans with his teeth… The time a kid was stranded in a canoe because he dropped his paddle into the lake (that was funny)… Late nights of Spades, Indian Leg Wrestling, Pizza, and songs… The list goes on and on.
While most of these memories are rather… lacking in maturity value, they provide great laughs and fond memories of being with guys just having good clean fun (ahem, for the most part). Regardless, there is one event which we did each year that holds particular value in my mind. On a certain morning of the week, a group of guys would go on a bike ride. 30 miles to a cool old convenience store, then 30 miles back. Now, for a older person, this wouldn’t be a challenge at all. For a kid in grade school… It was a bit more difficult. Immensely difficult actually.
The first year I went and did the bike ride, I didn’t think I was going to make it. I lagged behind the whole trip, and by the end pulling back into camp- could barely walk. There was a reason for this though. I didn’t use the gears. In case you didn’t know, gears on a bike can be changed based on the incline and terrain of the ground you’re riding on. I was told, after the ride, that gears can save you immense amounts of energy, because you’re using the bike power, instead of your own power.
Well, I tucked this information away so I could use for next year. Sure enough, time rolled around and the bike ride came up again. The first half of the trip, I was still pretty bad. Why? Because I wouldn’t stop changing the gears. I’d flip them high, then low, then middle… I was trying to figure out what worked best, and not really waiting to see what worked and what didn’t.
We stopped for a break, and the leader biker spun his tire. It was a bike in the same class as ones from tour de france, so for 20 min we watched it spin and spin and spin…. Then I remember him saying “You know what I like most about bike riding? It isn’t a struggle. You’ve got ups and downs… Dirt and Gravel… But if you’ve got a good bike under you- and you trust it to do the work, the ride may be tricky, but always manageable. Kinda like life.”
My first thought was “I need a better bike.” That wasn’t the case though. Keeping what the leader said in mind, I did my best not to fight the bike. Instead of changing gears every 30 seconds, I waited for as long as 20 minutes before adjusting. As I did this, I learned that low gears are good for the ups, and high gears are good for the downs. I was beginning to understand, and therefore trust my bike. When we headed back, because of my new understanding, I was able to finish the ride with the front group, and my legs didn’t hurt hardly at all. Sure, I was tired, but not exhausted to the point of not being able to walk or move a few hours afterward.
Upon reflection later that night, I learned from the leader that our walk with Christ is very similar to that bike ride we take every year. The harder we try to make Christ fit into how we think is best on our race, the more tired we will become. Some might even give up, like some did on the ride. However, the more we understand and trust Him, the easier our travel becomes. Not because the terrain has gotten easier, but we know more fully how to approach it. This is perhaps the greatest lesson I took away from this summer camp all my years of attending. Who would have thought it would have come from something as simple as a bike ride?