“I’m ready for the bike race next week!” Pete called out to his teen friends as they wheeled their racing two-wheelers into his yard for a training ride. “Just give me a minute to finish fixing this flat.”
Pete installed a strip cut from a plastic milk carton along the channel of the tire. “See I don’t even have to buy a tube!”
“And will that work?” Jack asked doubtfully.
“I’d bet my lucky socks on it!” the novice bicyclist affirmed. “I know it’s true because I read it in a bicycling magazine a few days ago! It’s great! This is absolutely free! I didn’t have any extra money anyway!”
Sometimes a promise of “This is an experience you’ll never forget!” could be a good thing. This wasn’t.
More than an hour later with nothing between towns but tumbleweeds and coyotes, the three wound down a country back road as Pete sprinted ahead. Then he wobbled and slowed down with panic in his eyes. Pete regained control of the two-wheeler as he and the bike staggered to a stop. Jack and Artie passed him. “Hey, guys! Stop! I’ve got a flat!”
“Great!” groaned Artie. You don’t have a tube, right?”
“My extra won’t fit on your wheel. Anybody remember a phone?”
“I guess in all the excitement we forgot.”
“I’ll head into town and call your folks,” Jack offered. He pedaled to the nearest phone eight miles and many minutes away.
Artie and Pete turned around for the long walk home with their bikes. Pete reddened and added, “I guess we’re getting the exercise after all – even if it’s not the way we planned.”
With town more than a dozen miles away, Artie glared at him, “I’ll take your lucky socks when we get home.”
When Pete’s parents showed up, they loaded the teens and their bikes.
“Pete! This is your fault! We’re stopping to buy an inner tube right now. You owe us.”
At the twenty-mile race a week later, Artie was wearing Pete’s lucky socks when Pete sprinted ahead to draft behind the lead racers. But without his lucky socks, Pete felt undressed. In a burst of speed, his friends zipped ahead of Pete and caught up with the lead racers.
Then something dark as a meatloaf dropped off Pete’s bike – the seat! Seven miles later still pedaling and standing, a red-faced Pete turned on the steam for a sprint across the finish line. His friends had finished long before. “Couldn’t sit down,” Pete explained. “We’ll have to find the seat somewhere back there!”
With nothing between the beginning and the end of the race but tumbleweeds and coyotes, the three couldn’t find it.
“I guess I can’t ride anymore,” Pete lamented.
But his friends continued training, got stronger, developed endurance and skills. They won again and again.
Pete had figured the cost of the race at only the entry fee. But had Pete really determined the cost of the rides and the races?
No. Pete could have checked his bicycle before and after each ride, oiling parts and doing routine maintenance as he looked to see that everything was working well—and that he kept his pants as well as his seat on.
Instead, he brought surprises into his life and that of his friends. Not the good kind!
Just as Jesus cautions us to count the cost of preparing, he warns that we need to count the cost of following him. “Suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” [Luke 14:31-33]
Living the Christian life – each day and each year and each decade – has a cost. It’s commitment. It’s taking a stand. It’s claiming Christ even in the face of ridicule or persecution.
It may cost friends – and bring you new ones. It may cost money and time. The Christian life may change your career and your focus.
But in running the race with Christ as your coach and trainer, you’ll emerge as the winner in all things that count.
[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of articles, anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available from Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and website, www.button-to-god.com. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]