When my wife invited me to go with her to the gym I thought it was a good idea. When she informed me that we must rise at 4:30AM and that we would be participating in a cardiac spinning class I didn't even blink. How hard could it actually be? I strolled into the gym, my cycling shorts barely able to contain my bravado.
The class was led by a lean, athletic woman with the body fat of a celery stick. She casually introduced herself and set me up on my bike. She made small talk with others and seemed harmless. But when the class began, everything changed. Buoyed by the thumping music, celery girl was transformed into a whirling dervish of torment. She began a pedaling cadence that would have caused a juiced pro cyclist to cringe, and oh how she bellowed and screamed at us. I screamed too; in agony.
I kept up appearances for a while. But ultimately I was reduced to a trembling, light-headed heap with what felt like burning razor blades in my lungs. The instructor and her little group of cycling fascists, including my wife, disappeared over the spinning horizon. I was in over my head, and I finally admitted it.
The night before my cardiac adventure/disaster I had read the accounts of Simon Peter's denial of Jesus. Peter, full of bluster and bravado, made bold promises about his abilities in the face of adversity. How hard could it actually be? Peter boasted that he would go to the death if necessary, in his commitment to Christ. But, by the time the sun rose, Peter had been reduced to a whimpering, trembling, and cowardly defector. He renounced the Christ he loved and finally had to admit he was in over his head. Thankfully, after his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus specifically sought out Peter. Jesus embraced him. Forgave him. The shame and self-disgust were washed away by mercy.
We all fail. We all have moments when the crowd peddles by us. We sit there exhausted, used up, in over our heads. In those moments Christ comes to us, not with criticism, but encouragement. He lets us catch our breath. Then, he puts us back in the saddle. He understands and offers grace best: No one who has ever failed, at faith or at riding a bike, has ever gotten fit by remaining where he fell.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, speaker, and author. His books include "Leaving Religion, Following Jesus" and "The Jesus Tribe." Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.