01 Sep Determined in the Journey, Conflicted in the Conscience.
“WHAT IS THIS?!?!”
I heard a determined cyclist express these words angrily on the Southsea seafront cycle lane on bank holiday Monday as he approached a dad standing with his two boys and a dog across both lanes.
Moments before, the cyclist had already encountered another man standing obliviously in the cyclist’s lane which runs parallel with some popular parking spaces.
I know this because, quite ashamedly, the cyclist was me.
I don’t recall having ever raised my voice like that before — really in any situation — but definitely not while on two wheels. Especially in more recent years, I’ve tried to carry an air of ‘grace’ on two wheels.
As a local council officer, I’m conscious of the complexities of the competing demands on our city’s limited road space. As a cyclist, I don’t want to fuel the reputation of the careless men in lycra, especially given my classic demographic of white man in his thirties. And as a Christian, I should know better…right?
“Sorry mate”. The dad swiftly moved his two boys and the dog back out of the lane and apologised. I gave a slight ironic laugh and carried on my way.
The Conflicted Christian Cycling Council Officer
I should add a bit more context. The fifty minutes of cycling before that moment — which I decided to take to help clear my head from the everyday cares of this world as well as to continue on this mission — had already thrown up a few occasions that required me to slow down, sometimes to a full stop.
A van was parked in cycle lanes outside Eastney toilets with its owner sat inside staring at his phone. Cyclist-intended gaps in the road blocks from the closing down of Victorious Festival were left just a little too narrow by the security guards. Dog walkers and their unleashed dogs had spread themselves across the widths of the Hilsea shared pathways.
This last example I am more sensitive about having come off my bike twice in the past year, including on this seafront stretch, as a result of dogs and their owners casually wandering out in front of me.
Of course, I’m aware there’s more than one side to the story and I am the only one giving an account here. But as I moved away from the seemingly meek apologetic dad, I experienced conflicting thoughts and feelings.
I shared all this with my wife, Xel, when I got home. A little while later as we drove off for an afternoon out, she asked me how I was now feeling about it.
I remained conflicted.
We agreed that it was better that I shouted rather than run into them, especially given I was at quite a speed at that point. And perhaps the experience for the dad as well as his sons will help them remember in future, and save them from such potential danger.
I added that in future there will be times when we need to be firm with Danièle to save her from possible trouble. And knowing my own usual tendency to bight my tongue and avoid confrontation, there was something refreshing about being upfront.
But I also couldn’t get the vision out of my head of the dad quickly shifting himself, his sons and dog back. My heart sunk a little as I imagined the possible embarrassment it may have caused the dad and perhaps a lingering downer on their day out by the seaside.
Hopefully, though, they quickly forgot about it and still enjoyed themselves.
What is this (spirit)?
By “WHAT IS THIS?!?”, I believe I was referring to the frustrating situation of seeing a mass of people ahead of me stood in the cycle lane. Perhaps it was also referring to the physical purpose of the road we all found ourselves in.
But what was this from me?
Was it right or wrong for me to shout out those words? As my wife, Xel and I, considered this in the car, I reflected on what I had read that morning in the gospels.
Jesus replied, “You unbelieving and perverse generation, how long will I be with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.” — Luke 9:41 (CSB)
Is this really the soft, loving Jesus we like to think of? What kind of tone do you think this was said in? I asked Xel.
As the same chapter closes, we read about a Jesus who was determined in his journey to Jerusalem. Determined, I like to imagine, in a similar way to me on completing the bike ride yesterday.
Because of his determination to reach the destination rather than stop and get cosy, Jesus and his disciples were not welcomed by the Samaritans that they had planned to rest with along the way. The disciples responded to this by asking Jesus if he wanted them to call down fire from heaven to consume the Samaritans.
The following couple of verses are recorded in some Bible translations, but not in others. (The reason for this — according to a quick Google search — does not appear to be a doctrinal concern, as in, including it or leaving out does not affect the principles of Christianity.)
Where it is included, it reads:
But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village. — Luke 9:55-56 NKJV
So was my reaction in the moment good or bad?
‘Jesus Saves’ is becoming a noticeably regular graffiti mark around the city. I would have taken some photos had I not been so determined to get round quickly.
Based on the above scripture’s example of Jesus’ grace, I like to believe my own confrontational and upfront actions indeed helped save a life more than it has destroyed one! But the spirit that caused it to come out probably could have been from a better place.
Jesus was convicted, rather than conflicted, in his handling of people. As for me, I confess my cycling sin, repent from it, and therefore hopefully learn and move on ‘to another village’ of hopefully better more compassionate experiences ahead.
But please have a look around next time you step out of your parked car at Southsea Seafront!
I am ‘in training’ for a London to Brighton bike ride with an aim to raise £150 towards the Catering, Hospitality & Education Fund (CHEF) which assists entrepreneurs starting up in Lesotho. Follow my journey in the run up to the event and please consider contributing here.