Chapter 23- Red Bicycle

From my journal of July 2008 as I was walking from Washington D.C. to Pittsburgh while memorizing the gospel of John. On this day the trail went through Dead Man’s Hollow Wildlife Preserve.

She rides past me on a bright  red bicycle, pedaling with a slow, deliberate pace, legs pushing in partnered motion.  Under a sun hat, her chestnut skin glistens with sweat, and she lifts her head proudly.  As she pulls in front, I watch how her straight back absorbs and balances with grace the gentle sways of her bicycle. Then I notice that behind her seat, strapped onto the frame, is an oxygen tank.  My miles of walking seem meager before such determination, such affirmation of life.  Red bicycle, red heart pumping, red blood cells crying for breath, red courage.

Fifteen minutes later, I am talking on my cell phone, negotiating at what steel mill parking lot I will get picked up since soon the trail gives way to the railway and industry hugging the river.  Here she returns again, emerging from tree shadows.  The hot afternoon sunlight flickers through the leaves and plays patterns on her hat, then glints red hues off the bicycle.  Soon I can read the name “Jesus” written in large letters across the front of her shirt.  Of course!  Impulsively, I wave and call an enthusiastic, “Hi!”  But I only end up confusing my husband on the phone and raising the red bicycle lady’s eyebrows as she glides by.

True, it was an unusual burst of spontaneity toward a stranger, especially for me.  But the book I have been reading for the last 315 miles, the same book I waved in the air while greeting her,  says we are one, she and I.  Through the name that binds us, I have suddenly recognized that her red bicycle is an amazing prayer.  One pilgrim has overheard  another in passing.  Hindsight, I should turn back around toward her swiftly retreating figure and bellow, “Amen, sister! To Life!”

The beloved disciple tells us that Jesus prayed:

 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.   (John 17.20-23)

This pilgrim prays: Well, I am acting uncharacteristically extrovert today.  Have I been walking too long?  Lord Jesus, you prayed that the pilgrim on the red bicycle and I would be one.  You’ve connected us to one another in invisible ways.  Maybe that’s why I greeted her before I knew what I was doing.  Maybe that’s why I don’t need a conversation to see her courage and sense her trusting your grace upon grace with each turn of the wheels.  She is my sister, relying on you for every breath.  So this is my prayer: may the world of people she passes on her red bicycle (including myself) see that you have indeed loved us with life, even as you are loving her with breath.