Tapping the Draft

Full disclosure before I begin.

This post has nothing to do with beer. It’s not about hymn lyrics written to pub songs or tips for evangelizing the bar scene. And it certainly is not a treatise on a biblical view of alcohol consumption. I admit that I chose to prey on curiosities with a play on words. Even so, I will explore the draft – but in terms of biking, not beverages or the military. But first, some background.

My family recently returned from several days of re-creating at one of our favorite camping spots. While away we drunk deep of sun, sand, woods, and water on the west side of Michigan’s Mitten. It was spectacular.

In addition to the wonders of Michigan, I enjoyed a bit of bike riding. No, not the ¼ mile helmet-less rides around the campground loop. I’m talking a ride of the leg and lung-burning sort. The kind that fosters a deeper appreciation for motorized vehicles.

It was a breezy, sunny day that my son, a good friend and I chose to test our biking prowess. After dropping our families at the beach, we began our ride along the sand-swept coast of Lake Michigan.

Our pace was brisk.  The miles floated by. We felt strong. Manly. Alive! Like warriors on carbon and aluminum steeds. A modest tail wind and flat roads might have inflated our egos and heightened our enthusiasm. But that’s beside the point.

Well, it didn’t take long for my enthusiasm to meet a harsh reality. Several miles into our ride, we exited a busy two-lane highway with a gentle right-hand turn. As we did, my friend said, “It gets a little hilly up ahead.” Moments later it became apparent that he and I have different definitions for ‘hilly.’ It seems one man’s ‘hilly’ is another man’s ‘mountainous.’ I felt all of my 40+ years as I pathetically pedaled-up the pile of earth – hill or otherwise. Each bend in the road brought not the summit, but a steeper grade. The ‘hill’ seemed to laugh at me and my legs of rubber. Through sunglasses streaked with sweat, I could see my son 100 yards in front of me. I was jealous. And for a few moments, I wasn’t appreciating his youthful vigor.

It took some effort, but I finished the climb without significant delay. In the thin air of the mountaintop (a.k.a ‘hilltop’ to some folks), we caught our breath. I tried to blame my sad performance on being trapped behind a desk during the workweek. A classic case of office lethargy. Then I glanced over at my friend. Who sits in the office next to me. Who finished the climb before me. Who is a few years older than me. So much for excuses.

Fortunately, up-hills are eventually followed by down hills. My legs sang as we continued our trek with a winding descent. But in the midst of enjoying gravity’s pull, we encountered a biker’s nightmare.

Flat tire. No spare.


Fast-forwarding this tale, we found some friendly locals who gave my son and his disabled bike a lift into town where the tire was repaired for an exorbitant fee. By the time my friend and I had ridden back to the bike shop, the bulk of our available ride time had passed. So, we decided to head back to our sunbathing families.

My son, fresh from his emergency evac was chomping at the bit. I told him he was welcome to take the lead and pace us back – this time into the wind. He bolted away from the bike shop while I scrambled to be the caboose of our little procession.

As we ground the gears – up hill and into the wind – my appreciation for the technique of drafting was renewed. In biking terms, drafting is when a rider stays very close and directly behind the biker in front. Doing so puts the trailing biker(s) in the lead biker’s slipstream. A biker riding in the slipstream does not feel the full resistance of the wind. Less resistance means easier pedaling, which means more energy for the hills (mountains) along the way.

My son was a workhorse. My friend and I drafted tightly. I was grateful.

Thinking about that ride and how I tapped the draft of my son, I’m reminded of my weakness. Of my need for help – help that comes through relationships. As a follower of Jesus, I get the best help through the community of saints – the Church. Many times I’ve been carried along in the slipstream of godly men and women who have allowed me to draft their faith journey. At times I purposely draft. Others times I ride unaware in the grace of someone’s slipstream. That’s how it works in a unified, loving, Christ-centered community.

The Christian experience winds along mountains and valleys. Kind winds nudge us forward while head winds demand extra helpings of the Spirit’s fruit (Galatians 5:22-23). As I ponder my roles of husband and father, I want to create a welcome and safe place for my wife and children to draft. I want to be strong and unswerving. I want them to observe how I tap into the power of God’s Word. How His Spirit guides me. And how I give and take (lead and draft) amidst the community of believers.

Hebrews 10:23–25 (NIV)

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

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