I will never forget my first paceline! It was the day of what would be my first century, and that was following two of the longest back to back days of cycling I had ever done. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it when we first started the day, but I was certainly going to die trying. I was riding with a more experienced friend and as we rode along he gave me advice on how to pace myself, when to attack and when to rest, so that we could make the distance together. This was a great relief to me, and with his help I knew I could make the distance.
Then it happened, a paceline of a dozen or more riders went flying by and my friend said, “Jump in on this one.” I didn’t want to appear to be the novice I was (or am), but I politely said, “You can if you want. I’ll be fine on my own. I’ve never done that before and I am just not comfortable doing it. I would hate to be the cause of someone else getting hurt.” Being a true friend he replied, “That’s alright. I understand. Let’s stick together.” We worked at drafting each other, and I could actually feel the benefit of riding in his slipstream at times. What also amazed me was the sense of push I received when he was riding behind me. We definitely benefited from riding together instead of solo.
Then it happened. I joined my first paceline and didn’t even know it. My friend and I were working together and keeping a pretty solid pace. I was leading and he was coaching and pushing from behind. Little did I know that we soon started to gather riders in our slipstream, and the pace and paceline increased… with me at the front! Now my friend and coach became even more important. I “hit it” when he said to hit it, I rested when he said to rest. Together we flew along at speeds I had never seen before. It was exhilarating to say the least. I told him, “Man, I wish I had my helmet cam facing backward now. This would make a great sermon illustration.” We traveled along that way for a few miles, and eventually the next intersection caused us to break apart. As the other riders passed me saying things like, “That was awesome, nice pull,” I WAS HOOKED!
That would not be the last paceline of the day. Sometimes the group was as small as four, and other times much larger, but the effect was the same: staying in line, sharing the load, we all rode farther and faster than we could alone. In fact, I was amazed how many times I actually rode significant distances uphill without pedaling and without losing much in the way of speed. I also noticed that being out of sync with the group just a few degrees caused drag that slowed me down, so, I happily fell into line with the other riders; leading when I could and enjoying the benefit of being in a paceline. Not only did I complete the century, but did so with a better average speed, and in a better physical condition than I expected. That day will probably forever be marked as one of the greatest days of my life.
As a pastor, my mind instantly saw the spiritual connections between my experience in the paceline and our spiritual journeys. Many people have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They do the best they can on their own, and they do succeed to a certain degree. However, we succeed much better when we have a more experienced coach, or even just a
friend to share the experience with. When we work together and align ourselves with the point, everyone benefits. This is where our local churches come in. This, too, I believe is the desire of those who are part of Christian Cycling; likeminded people, sharing a common passion for cycling, riding together not just for the ride but for the spiritual journey as well. You can be a cyclist and tackle the journey alone, or with experienced friends. The same is certainly true of our spiritual journey.
The reality of life in a sinful world is that we are always “riding into a headwind.” The circumstances we face have been impacted by the presence of sin in the world, and in our own lives. Not to mention that scripture tells us that we have an enemy, the Devil, who will do everything he can to dissuade us from following Christ. But we have one who has conquered the greatest headwinds of all time; Jesus Christ!
Unlike a typical paceline, the Christian paceline has only one point person, Jesus Christ, and he doesn’t mind “wheel suckers.” In fact it is his desire to “give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Hebrews 4:9-11 tells us, “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” This passage speaks directly about the Sabbath, but the overarching point of Hebrews 4 is that God desires for us to find our rest for every moment of the journey of life in Him. Instead of facing sin and the effects of sin on our own, we simply need to accept and enter in to the completed work of Christ on our behalf. On the cross, and through His resurrection, Jesus broke the headwind once and for all, now we are simply invited “throw off anything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run (or ride) with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus (aligning ourselves in his wake), the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). But, just like some get “dropped” from a paceline, it is easy for us to be overcome by the headwinds of sin and dropped through “disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11).
So, how do we paceline Christ? Ephesians 4:1-8,11-16 gives us that answer.
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain unity of the Spirit in the bod of peace.
There is only one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men” (Christ is the head of the paceline) And he gave the apostles, prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers (His Word and experienced friends) to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ, until we all reach unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried by every wind of doctrine,
by human cunning, by craftiness and deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, Jesus Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (The description of a perfectly formed and operating Christian paceline)
I learned from my experience in pacelines that day (and the rest of the week) that I no longer enjoy riding alone as much as I do with fellow cyclists. This is especially true of my fellow Christian Cyclists who not only share the same passion for cycling that I do, but also share the same passion for following the Lord Jesus Christ as I do. Speaking the truth in love, may we grow up together in every way into Jesus Christ, who is the head, from whom we are joined and held together, and when working together as each has been equipped, the body will grow and build itself up in love, and we will no longer be tossed by the wind!