After many years of seeking to live a spiritual life, I still ask myself, ‘Where am I as a Christian?Henri Nouwen, ‘Spiritual Formation: Following the movements of the spirit’
I’ve been recording my experiences of cycling (adventures, holidays, audaxes, commuting) for nearly 10 years. I started this journal because I wanted to look back on something more interesting than a spreadsheet of cycling data. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy comparing bits of data as much as the next cyclist, but this was to be a description of the places I travelled to, who I went with and interesting things that happened along the way. This was before strava, relive.cc and vlogging from the saddle: it was a world in which to share a ride online was to describe it.
I recently had a reason to read through all 197 posts in this journal – going back ten years. I was writing a Dissertation on whether I could discern progression in my Christian faith within the non-religious language of my own cycling blog.
Writers run the risk of revealing more of themselves than they initially intended when putting pen to paper, the nature of who we are escapes into the language we use to describe our experience. While some writers may be able to create a manipulated world completely alien to their lived experience, I’m not that good. The ego sneaks out between the lines of curated self-promotion. I wondered whether, between those lines, I would find a story of Christian faith lived out over the years.
Did you know that faith is not a binary thing? Did you know that most people have illogical trust in something other than themselves, or an even less logical isolationism that demands a faith in themselves. Sure, we can apply labels to ourselves which are beneficial in a tribal sort of way, but labels can lead to a misleading idea of there being a fixed state for each of us. Faith, unlike a religious label, is not a census status. There is a school of thought that faith is a journey, and that as with any journey there will be well worn paths, unexplored lands, familiar stopping places and surprising finds. If we travel long enough, we may return to favourite places or we might continue in one direction until (flat-Universers beware) we come back to the place we started.
There was a book published by a gentleman called Fowler, identifying ‘stages of faith’ and claiming that each stage was indicative of a person’s maturing development. Fowler’s work was ground-breaking, and as with all new theories, not without flaws. More recently, two writers, Hagberg and Guelich, developed Fowlers concepts into a non-linear journey – a spiritual journey. I used their research as the basis of my self-examination.
Reading back through the years of writing I was both embarrassed and delighted by what I found. I was delighted to reread cycling adventures I’d forgotten about, and given that the original purpose was to do just that, the entire balancingontwowheels journal has been a success. I know that one or two people have found my descriptions of audax events helpful when preparing for their own adventures, and for this I’m grateful. The embarrassment, however, comes from meeting myself between the lines. Meeting the boastful, arrogant, egotistical me was hard. I cringed to read the way, with mock humility, I ‘struggled’ and ‘overcame obstacles’ – all the time essentially bragging.
During the last year I essentially gave up writing these cycling stories, partly because I was immersed in studying towards a Degree and writing essays, but also because I was dissatisfied with what had gone before. How do I now move forward and write about cycling in a fashion which is liberating? I don’t know, but I’m going to try again.
This post is, therefore, a waymarker in the tone of my writing, I hope that balancingontwowheels will begin to reflect where I am on my spiritual journey as much as where I’ve been on my cycling journeys. Given that a lot of my writing and thinking revolves around my life as a minister of religion, I expect that future story-telling will include more of my theological reflections than have gone before.