I find July tiring because I get up early in the morning to watch the Tour de France. For those who are not bicycle enthusiasts, a bike race is very boring because all you see for four to five hours are guys riding a bike. However, for those who understand the strategies involved in a bicycle race, it is incredibly exciting. As I watch, I find myself comparing the bicycle race to the faith journey.
There are 22 teams, or 176 riders, in the Tour de France, and for three weeks riding for more than 2115 miles and climbing more than 30 miles of mountains. Each team is made up of nine riders and they all have specific roles: sprint specialists, climbers, and at least one competing to win the Tour. However, most of the team is made up of “domestiques” who actually ride to deliver water and food to support their teammates.
The only thing that matters each day is crossing the finish line. It doesn’t matter how good you look when you finish, but just that you finish the day. If a racer does not finish a stage, he is out of the Tour and he cannot race the following day. A rider has to find a way to keep going even when his body screams for him to quit.
One of the iconic images of this year’s race was captured the other day when one of the race favorites hit the wall. With his legs gone, Tedej Pagacar, slowed down and lost significant time to his main competitor Jonas Vingegaard, who will probably win the Tour. When he had nothing left, Tedej thought about stopping, but a teammate sacrificed his own performance and rode alongside the struggling rider to ensure that he did not abandon the race.
With a teammate riding alongside him, giving him water, food, and encouraging words, Tedej finds the strength to climb up the steep slope of the Alps. It is also obvious the not-so-well-known teammate is a much stronger rider on this day, but he does not race to get the best time he can, but he stays with the struggling team member sacrificing his own performance.
The Christian faith journey is similar. It is not a solo race, but it is a team effort. In the era of being “not religious, but spiritual,” there are many younger people of faith attempting to live faithfully but are going at it without teammates supporting them. Too often the spiritual younger adults are forced to leave a faith community because the institutional church refuses to accommodate those who are questioning the archaic methods of ancient cultural rituals. The institutional Church only supports those who are doing well but refuses to make adjustments necessary to ensure that those who have questions are not abandoned.
I wonder what a Church would look like if its emphasis was placed on those who are struggling. Rather than judging those who struggle as “doubters” or “lacking faith”, I wonder if the institutional Church would have to change to ride alongside those who find the hills of their faith journey too steep. Rather than condemning those who are questioning the Church’s view on sexual or gender identity as “sinners”, will the Church be willing to go on the faith journey at the pace of those who are asking questions?
When will the Church stop abandoning its people?