Crankworx is among the largest annual mountain bike gatherings in the world. It is held in Whistler, B.C. and draws people from all over the world. Since my son and I are avid downhill mountain bikers I thought it would be a blast to load up the truck and take the family on a long road trip from Colorado to Canada. After a week on the road and engaging in events and competitions, I have made some observations that are comparable to what many experience in regards to the faith.
It all starts with an inclusive vision.
Even two year old children have a place to ride and a path on which to get started. Like most mountain bike parks, Whistler has done a great job creating trails that offer fun, safe environments to gain basic skills along with trails that allow a person to gradually progress on the bike. So whether you are a first timer, or a world champion rider, the design is that all comers can have a share in this place. As ones skills develop, their bike and trail changes in accordance with their ability and skill.
The Christian faith shares that vision. Scripture tells us we all begin with a child-like faith that takes us on a road through challenges and experiences that causes our belief to change from one thing into another thing. It’s called transformation. This means that the things we believed at one time are no longer held (at least in the same way) at a later time, because our faith has grown into a much more nuanced version of the same thing.
Then some people lose sight of that vision.
While mountain bike parks like Whistler all start with an inclusive vision, and even if they have rules that give slower riders the “right of way”, you don’t have to be here very long before you encounter those who have lost sight of inclusion. What starts as a celebration of progress soon becomes hostile as skilled riders express frustration at those who would impede them. This is the germination of religion. Religion sets in for those people who have a love and knowledge of the sport, and then begin to see the trails as their own. Once this happens, they loath the crowds, and the main trails and search out untouched soil that they can call their own.
We see this in all world religions too. Those with a knowledge and love of the faith create a set of nuances and beliefs that they hold as “their own.” As a result, the world is full of countless religions and numerous denominations within each one. The vision that was once inclusive is now only limited to those who can “hang” with us. No matter how much most churches talk about including others, their real message has become exclusive. Many see faith as being for those who “get it.” Then a church goes down a lonely road and tries to stay afloat on the efforts of the few. The inclusion of everyone has morphed into an exclusive band of brothers. A shared foundation, becomes “Us against Them.” While I’m all for a person exploring new trails or stepping away from the crowds for faster riding, it is the diminishment of those who lack the same skill that undermines everything. Is it any wonder that church attendance is in such massive decline?
The only correction to the problem.
Whether we are talking about mountain biking or faith, we can all see how important it is to maintain the right perspective. If we see ourselves as owners then the only outcome is to resent those who don’t “ride with us.” When it comes to faith, ask yourself how open you are to another person’s journey. Maybe they are from a different denomination, or even religion, or perhaps they grew up without any particular system of belief, maybe they define themselves as atheistic. Do you create distinctions between yourself and others? Do these distinctions cause you to believe that you are somehow better off because you are further along than others? If so, be careful. You must remember you are not an owner, you are a benefactor. None of us have any idea of what God is doing in the lives of his other children. We don’t know what challenges and experiences God is using to turn us into something else, to transform us.
If we can accept that we are all on this road and that all comers are people of faith (varied as each may be) then perhaps we can begin to celebrate those differences and help each other advance to new milestones in our faith.
This sounds easy enough, but I’m actually talking about a very amazing transformation. It is when a person relaxes the distinctions that forge separatistic identities, and embraces the oneness and solidarity that we all share in common. This is not about converting from one religion to another, it goes beyond that, to the heart level. It doesn’t mean we lose our uniqueness, but we make sure we preserve our connection to each other. This is the mature end of all systems of faith, and even the goal of bike parks.
Jesus was right, the correction is one of the heart. If it happens there, it will happen everywhere. If we miss it there, nothing can change us and the thing we transform into will not be something any of us desires.