Recently, my friend Robert invited me to start mountain biking again. So, we met on a Sunday afternoon to ride. Robert used to ride professionally, so I think he dogged it so I could keep up, but it was a beautiful day and a great ride.

Afterwards, Robert told me that to him a great ride has three components: social, fitness and adventure.

A ride is most fun, he said, when you have people to go with you, and you can laugh together and challenge each other. When something happens – getting lost, wiping out, or crashing into a tree (it happens!) you get to re-tell the story together.

It’s also good to know you’ve pushed your body to its limit. So, on that Sunday, instead of lying on the couch watching football and falling asleep, we pushed the beautiful machine that we call a body and marveled at the ability of the lungs to recover after climbing a hill or the legs to propel the body up a sharp incline. And then upon completion, we felt the endorphin rush one gets after strenuous exercise.

And finally, there is a sense of adventure. Unlike an exercise bike or treadmill in the gym, there is a very real possibility that I could fall off my bike, and that sense of danger heightens my senses to a degree that cannot be experienced in the gym. (To be honest, I have fallen off the treadmill at the gym too, but that’s another story!)

So, what does any of this have to do with anything at all? Well, one of the things that has been at the forefront of my thinking over the last couple of years is the spirituality of everything. Somewhere along the line in my religious upbringing and education, I got the idea that spirituality was only about what I think and feel – that following Jesus was mostly non-material.

But I don’t think that way anymore. God created us with bodies. God created us to live in relationship with other people. And I could argue that God created us for adventure; to live like there is something more. So, in that sense, an afternoon spent racing through trees at Jubilee, Farmdale, or Independence with good friends, pushing our bodies to the max, splashing through creeks (maybe falling in), getting muddy and even bruised is a spiritual act.

Thank you God for trees, streams and wildlife. Thank you for friends to love and laugh with. Thank you for this remarkable body that you’ve gifted me with. Thank you for the gift of adventures – not only on my bike, but bigger adventures, like parenting and leading a church. Thank you that everything is a gift from you. Help me to live in a way that honors the preciousness of everything.

Pastor Charlie Dean is the head pastor at Imago Dei Church in Peoria, IL, a non-denominational church located at 210 W Arcadia Ave, Peoria, IL 61604.

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