Faith Identity

15 Again!

The sun sent a ray of light into my otherwise dark bedroom. I stayed up way too late the night before! One of those binge-watching Netflix nights. Who cares! It was Saturday morning now and for some reason, my bike was calling! I whispered to my wife “I’ve gotta bike this morning! An adventure is calling!”  All geared up and a clean bike-check, I set out for a fun jaunt. My tracking app would create this great drone view of my route. 

Up and over the footbridge in our neighborhood and a few twists and turns into a small wooded area by the creek. Suddenly, I was 15 again! The freedom I felt on that bike! I recall when I was 15, helping my mom get our family pop-up tent camper packed and ready for a weekend camping trip. We’d pile and strap our bikes down on top waiting for dad to get home from work. Not old enough to drive, but too old to be told what to do. I was in that awkward adolescent tension of wanting to become a man of my own identity and yet still utterly dependent on my folks. Truth was, my faith had deteriorated down to a token Sunday-only appearance. Arguments with my folks over how little I could go to church were constant. At least, when we went camping, no one went to church and I was quietly granted a weekend reprieve.

I’d bike every road and every trail in the campgrounds. Gone for hours.  One time I found a wooded hiking trail I could take my bike on, down towards the lake. Leaning my bike on a huge boulder, I sat there, staring at the water, enjoying a reprieve from anyone and everyone. Here I could be my own man. My own thoughts. My own dreams. When you are 15, the future is maybe a year out. Possibly two. I wanted my own car. I wanted to date a girl. Hold her hand. Kiss her. In my mind, I must admit, I wanted to go further than that. I had to figure out what to do with all these raging hormones that seem to continually torment me. I wanted freedom. My bike gave me that! 

Even back at home, weekends were chances to explore, create roadmaps that took me to various places in and around our city: parks, downtown, trails along the river. My longest was a 28-mile solo trek to a nearby suburb. All by myself! You’d thought I went to another country and back!  But, hey, when you are 15, wheels represent freedom.

My soul wanted freedom. Freedom to make my own path. Freedom to build endurance. Stamina. To figure out who I was and was becoming. Freedom also from the entanglement of sin. Freedom from this constant feeling inside that I wasn’t good enough. That I was always in the way. Maybe it was all in my head. Truth was I had a loving family. Solid, good, hard-working parents. Even my two kid-sisters, as pesky as they could be sometimes, teasing me about all my zits, were good sisters; and still are to this day! What I didn’t realize at 15 was as much freedom my bike gave me, It left me on the side of the road. Flat tires, worn-out brakes, broken chain. Ever walk your broken bike five miles home? Hot, tired, and sore feet!

In less than 18 months, by the time I was 16-½, my world turned upside down. This Jesus I wanted to keep at arm’s length so I could have what I thought was real freedom, met up with me at my friend’s funeral. He showed me what real freedom is like. That began what has become a lifetime journey with Jesus. Freedom from sin and shame and guilt. Not all at once, but increasingly, the weights fell off and I understood what real freedom was all about!

Fast-forward to today. I’m a lot older. My kids are young adults, married, forging lives of their own. I still ride my bike, partly because I have to due to my heart surgery, but mostly because I still like that feeling of freedom. The wind blowing in my face, The sun warming my body. You can call it a mini-escape, but the truth is I meet Jesus on my bike. He and I have a lot of conversations. Sometimes it’s me babbling on, exposing the locked part of my heart to Him. Praying for a host of those I mentor and who mentor. Other times, I am quiet. listening to Jesus. I hear His words of affirmation over me. How He wants to father me.

Every man needs a place he can go. A place where he can nourish his soul in the presence of God. One of my places is on a bike. It’s there I feel all the good things about being 15 again!

Where do you go?

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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