Imagine, if you have experienced it, the log ride at Disneyland. When the ride begins, you and a few people climb into a carved out “log,” and gently drift around a little river at the top of the mountain. The ride seems pleasant at first. You hear cute songs sung by cheery squirrels and birds. Everything just seems so annoyingly happy. Too happy. Something is off. You sense impending doom. After a few minutes, you see brier rabbit caught in a thorn bush. He’s trapped. Crying. All is not right.
Then, the log starts to go up.
Before you is what seems like a 1,000 foot incline, darkness all around, with the roaring sound of rushing water and the crank-crank-cranking of the log slowly approaching the opening at the top.
There is no escape.
Your heart starts racing.
You are about to go down a waterfall.
Yep, you just might die today.
Well, not really. The ride climbs up for 30 seconds with wooden warning signs of “Go Back!” Then, you reach the top, make a face of terror (or joy, if you’re one of those annoying brave souls that don’t freak out when looking over a 100 foot cliff), a Disneyland camera captures the moment, and you descend down the waterfall for two seconds. Then, the ride is over. The end.
But, let’s go back to that feeling of unshakable terror and dread.
See, that’s how most of my team felt when waking up a few days ago, knowing we were about to climb the Appalachian Mountains. On our bikes. We have been dreading this day all week, and quite honestly, since the beginning of the tour. We had already rode through the Cascades and the Rockies 6 weeks prior, which weren’t easy but were also at the beginning of the tour, during a time when we barely had leg muscles and riding skills. Now, here we were, at the end of the tour, and it was rumored that the Appalachians were comparable to THREE Cascade Mountains. Needless to say, we were scared.
We rode almost 100 miles that day for 10 hours. I remember seeing the “SUMMIT” exit sign off the main road, when we first headed to the mountain, and the letters on the sign oddly changed to “DEATH.” As we gently rode through the woods, the atmosphere gave log ride deception of birds chirping, sunshine and happiness. The road even dared to give us a fun downhill at the beginning of the day, taunting us, knowing that we would simply have to climb back up. I also rode support that day with a fellow rider, so we were the back of the pack. The mountain could try to convince us that this was just another fun day of riding, but we knew the truth. This day was going to suck.
And then the climb began. Only, this was not a 30 second climb with dramatized music. This climb, and the others to follow that day, were 1-2 hour climbs each, with 6-8% grades. I waited for the trees to turn evil and started throwing pine cones at me or the sky to turn dark and pour down thunder and lightening. But, the birds kept chirping. And life went on. And then, the best thing happened. At every break, the entire team was cheered us on as we finally approached the group. I realized my legs weren’t going to fall off. I could do this. WE could do this.
Finishing that mountain riding was the equivalent of how this sloth felt:
But, let me tell you the real secret on getting up steep mountains on a 35-pound bike. Singing. Reciting songs in your head is preferable so you don’t exhaust your precious oxygen and pass out. My preferred array of music went as follows:
- Worship Songs
- Disney Musicals
- The Beatles
- America the Beautiful
- R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly”
- Love ballads
- Anything Beyonce
Yes, Beyonce helped me get up the mountain. After I played mental DJ for 8 hours and exhausted every song that naturally came into my head, the day was over. And we didn’t die. We didn’t even get any flats that day!
Truth be told: what really got us up that mountain was prayer. Looking back, it is absolutely incredible that we climbed 8,000 feet over that kind of terrain, none of us professional cyclists, and were all in good spirits at the end. Throughout this entire trip, and especially that riding day, so many people were praying for us and sending us positive words of encouragement. There is true power in those words and can make or break your spirit, when facing a difficult obstacle.
God proved to us that anything really is possible with Him. Which means when we are called to do great things in this world, to change the world, to restore brokenness and tackle some of these seemingly impossible challenges of homelessness, hunger, trafficking and slavery, abuse, and neglect, that not only are we called to help, but hope is real and will be delivered. Change WILL happen. But, it is not by us alone. Faith is necessary for it to be so. We must push into that faith every single day and believe in the promise of deliverance. How else will we trust and be able to do the work we are called to do?
We have four days left on this trip, but a lifetime to reflect on the power of that day on the Appalachians. Next time a mountain comes my way, I’ll be ready.