Confessions of an Agonised Cyclist

My ‘buddy’ and I struggled up the bank, our pedals churning up and down fuelled by sheer willpower. We had just passed the aptly named village of Grewelthorpe. This marked Mile 102 of the 2014 Tour de France Day 1 route, from Leeds to Harrogate via Wharfedale, Wensleydale, Swaledale and just about everywhere else*. John Kirkby CBE, Founder and CEO of CAP (Christians Against Poverty), had trained every day for 5 months for this charity fundraiser, but he had no previous history of cycling. I regularly rode 12 relatively flat miles each way to work and back, but due to a misunderstanding on my part, had done no training for this 109-mile event.

And now, here we both were, equal partners in misery. John felt sick due to consuming all sorts of energy tablets. My saddlesore bum stung like fury. It was a relief when a heavy shower fell from the sky. It also helped when one of John’s friends dropped back to keep us company, one who had a bit more energy to spend on conversation.

“C’mon then John,” he said, “tell us your Christian testimony.” And for five minutes I forgot my pain.

I began by telling them that I wasn’t proud of the way I used to treat people. Nigel was the worst example. I was most affronted when he knocked me off my perch at the top of the class when I was aged 14. How dare he! He was a swot, not at all a happy boy. I’m afraid I made unkind jokes about him, talked behind his back, and joined with others in making his school life a misery. His family moved to Teesside for his 6th form years and, from what I gather, he continued to find life hard.

So, how do you make up for past ‘crimes against humanity’? It’s a question confronted by Father Michael Kerrigan, hero of the TV series ‘Broken’, on which we are basing our Lent Course. After two episodes, we have become very fond of Fr Michael. This week he has to deal with a suicidal lady who asks him how she can find a way back from accumulating colossal debts. Michael tells her about his own guilt, and how he has spent his whole adult life seeking to atone for his sins as a young man.

But that wasn’t my answer! When one day I received upsetting news about someone I could have treated better, I had somewhere to run. St Paul, who’d had much blood on his hands, described himself as ‘the foremost of sinners’. Yet he declared in Romans 8 vs 1:

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

What does he mean by ‘therefore’? You can trace it back to Isaiah 53 verses 4-6, which prophesies Jesus’ suffering:

“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. Yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted,

But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities…and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

What I did to Nigel and others has been firmly laid down at the cross of Jesus. It has been atoned for, not by me but by Him. I wish Fr Michael could know this freedom.

 Puffing, panting and gasping out the words, I finished my testimony just as we reached the top of the bank. Not long afterwards, we completed the course. I was proud to have raised money for CAP**, and it had been a special privilege to ride alongside John Kirkby himself.

Maybe there were compensations for being a slow cyclist…

John Hearson

[*Our event finished in Sawley, near Ripon, as the approach to Harrogate was being prepared for the Tour which took place the following day.]

[**CAP is a remarkable organisation which deserves a separate article – another time.]

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