Headwinds

I live in the hilly part of Kansas.

Now because of that sentence, some of you are going to think this blog post will be entirely filled with untruths. But it is true. Here tucked away in the northeast corner is a beautiful part of the state that reminds me of some parts of the Ozarks or southern Appalachia.

In fact, it is hilly enough that it is nearly impossible to find a flat section of road to run or bike. You have to dip into the bottoms along the Missouri River to find level ground. And there, you have two options. There’s the appropriately named “River Road,” which gives you a couple miles, and there’s the levee trail, whih gives you a couple miles. From my home, you can do a nice loop, going north on another road (VERY hilly) to the levee trail, take that to River Road, and then go up one of the biggest hills in town to get home.

That first road is spectacular and horrible. Though I live near the top of a hill, the first bit is a steep climb. Not easy on legs that aren’t warmed up. Then comes a fast, long downhill. After that is another huge climb, before an even faster downhill. The route levels out before you get to the levee, but I’m frequently a little toasted by the time I get there, as I was today.

But still, the levee portion is the flat straight. Those are the miles where you drop the hammer and pour into it everything you have. So as I carved around the hairpin that climbs to the top of the levee, I prepared myself to gear up and hammer down.

But as soon as I crested the levee–WHOOSH–a gust of wind almost knocked me over. My immediate relief at not falling over was quickly replaced with dread. It wasn’t just a gust. I have a headwind. I hate headwinds.

In this case, it was strong enough to drop my top speed by almost half. And I was killing myself maintaining that. And I had around six miles to go before I would be turning towards a different heading.

Somewhere along there–as I struggled and fought against this invisible force that was sapping all my energy, all my enthusiasm, all my joy–I had an epiphany.

Church can be like riding a bike. There’s ups and downs, parts that are really fun and parts that are a lot of work, parts that are exciting and parts that are quite mundane. But I also realized that we encounter headwinds too.

A headwind in a church is something or someone who uses energy, who sucks the excitement out of an idea. It may be that committee or board that no one wants to have to deal with. It may be that person who always complicates things. It may be those parts of your structure that prevent you from acting and responding in the time and way you need to.

And the thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. If a person is complicating things, he or she has probably been forced into a role that does not align with their gifts. A board or committee that is a continual obstacle for others probably needs some turn-over of its members, who may be getting burnt out or are (again) not in a role that uses their gifts. And structures? Structures can be changed, though changing structures will not cure our relationship ills. It will not create energy or ideas, only not consume as much.

The road we ride as a church has enough obstacles already. Let’s respect each other enough to avoid headwinds where we can. I do hate riding into a headwind.

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