George Bowers Sr.: Conquering the Tour de Life
Each summer, the world watches as some of the toughest athletes on the globe gather in Europe for the Tour de France. This grueling test of endurance stretches over 2,200 miles in just 21 days and covers some of the steepest terrain on the continent. This year’s contest will conclude on Sunday with a final sprint to the finish in none other than grand Paris. Thousands will be on hand to see who will cross the line first and take home the coveted trophy and cash award as well as the international respect and honor that go with them.
This bike race is the largest sporting event in the world with approximately 12 million spectators lining the course while another 3.5 billion watch at home on television. Roughly half the world’s population is tuned in to this captivating event.
Throughout the three weeks, 22 riders vigorously compete for top honors. They have trained for years and the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities brings out the best and worst in competitors. Already this year there have been some spectacular crashes resulting in injuries and eliminations.
What many casual observers miss is that each competitor has his own team of riders helping him. Eight other bikers often surround the team leader and insulate him from bumps that may cost him the race. They sacrifice their own bodies and times in order to benefit their leader. This explains why there are nearly 200 riders constantly jostling for position throughout each of the race’s 21 stages.
In addition, each of the team members take turns leading their pack setting the pace and breaking the wind for their captain. In the same way that geese alternate flying the point of their vees to avoid exhausting any one goose, so too these riders constantly rotate in and out of the point position and pace the group appropriately. Because of this plan, the entire team can go much faster and much farther than any individual rider could alone.
These cyclists can help us understand the design God has for his people. He didn’t bring anyone into this world without a family and he has engineered this institution in such a way as to minimize stress and maximize blessing. In addition, he has created the church body for the support and provision of his followers. As we alternate positions of leadership and responsibility, it lightens the burden of all and extends the influence and accomplishment of the entire group.
Unfortunately, sometimes we mistakenly believe we are competing against each other. Instead of encouraging and insulating each other from attacks, we intentionally elbow and bump them. Instead of traveling together, we furiously pedal to stay in front and then wonder why we are exhausted. In addition, some team members don’t even realize they’re supposed to be participating and simply gawk from the sidelines, or worse yet, criticize those on the course who are peddling their legs off.
This team concept becomes especially important whenever one in our family or church is suffering. Whether it is cancer or another prolonged illness, divorce, grief, unemployment, or other life stressor, the need to work as a team becomes paramount. Each of these challenges includes grueling mountains that often seem infinitely long and steep. Each of them requires stamina and determination. And each of them requires the help of others to endure successfully. Without the aid and support of our teammates, we can become easily discouraged and drop out.
It is important for family and church members to surround the hurting member just as the Tour de France teammates surround their main rider. Although that individual is the chief competitor, he or she needs the encouragement, protection, and presence of the others. The more teammates there are, the less strain there is on any one person and it lightens the load for all if we are each willing to take a turn at wind-breaking.
Ultimately, all of life is a multi-staged course with some downhills, some flats, and some steep climbs. Let’s surround and help each other even as the Bible instructs us in Hebrews 10:24 to, “… spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”
Overcoming life’s adversities is more rewarding than all the prize money in the world and just as Tour winners traditionally share their winnings with their entire team equally, so too, each member of our team can share in the joy of victory when the race is completed. Let’s help each other finish strong! Blessings, George
George Bowers Sr. is the senior pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren and has authored nine books including his latest, “Valley Verses, Volume III.” He can be reached through www.georgebowersministries.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.