“Take Away The Stone” by John August Swanson
“…Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’” – John 11:43-44
“We are constantly being called to come out of the tomb. It is the voice of one who loves us that calls us forth and this is what can give us the strength and courage to come forth and live again.” – John August Swanson
I have a love/hate relationship with my bike. I love the wind whipping around me, the feeling of freedom, and the pure joy of being self-propelled. I love the rush of adrenaline that comes from careening down a hill, legs still burning from the climb to the top. Cycling makes me feel alive. But it also scares me. The all-too-common headlines featuring cyclists hit by cars and injured or killed, my own lack of strength and balance, and my fear of falling or crashing temper those things I love about biking.
A few weeks ago, a friend contacted me to see if I wanted to ride with her on a startlingly nice Friday afternoon. My bike hadn’t seen the outdoors since September, and I hesitated. This would also be my first time out with clipless pedals, my feet locked onto the pedals. Clipless pedals have the benefit of increased power transfer, but I had also been warned that I would fall in the process of learning how to clip in and clip out. I didn’t want to fall off my bike. I didn’t want to get hurt. I was terrified and contemplated refusing the invitation. I gave serious thought to refusing to feel alive with a friend on a beautiful sunny day because I was afraid of falling.
It would be a shame for fear to trump life and joy, so I strapped on my shoes, took my bike off the trainer, and went outside for a few laps around my condominium complex to try it out. The first lap went swimmingly; I easily clipped in, did a lap, and then clipped one foot out as I stopped back at my front door. Then I did it again. As I rounded the corner, the UPS truck was in front of the door. I got distracted, and as I pulled under the carpark and slowed to a stop, I suddenly realized I’d forgotten to clip out. Right in front of the UPS deliveryman, I went down on my left side.
The shock and slight humiliation were worse than the actual impact. The deliveryman asked if I was okay, and I told him I was fine, while chuckling to myself. Then I floundered around for a bit until I was able to unclip and stand myself and my bike up. So that was what it felt like to fall – not pleasant but not that bad either. I would fall one more time that day, this time on my left side, while trying to stop at a busy intersection. Again, I laughed at myself while trying to reassure on-lookers that I was okay, that it looked worse than it really was.
Fear of falling, or really fear of the idea of falling, nearly kept me from experiencing the joy and camaraderie of cycling with a friend on a beautiful early spring day. How much more do my everyday fears keep me from really living, keep me from taking risks, keep me locked in the tomb when Jesus is calling, “Come out and live”? The fear of failure, of making a mistake and being found imperfect, of criticism, of losing someone’s respect, these are the cloths that keep me bound and entombed even though Jesus has already rolled away the stone.
Like falling off my bike, the fear of something is often worse than the thing itself. It’s no accident that the Bible is repeatedly telling us, “Do not be afraid.” Do not be afraid. God is calling us to live abundantly.