By Brad Grobbel, 2021 missionary (rider on Northern Route)
People that know me well know that as soon as I find the latest thing, I tend to become obsessed and quickly name it “the best thing ever!”. Knowing that I have a superlative-nature and that I say something like this every month, (I know, life is hard), I really think I found ‘the best thing ever’–Biking for Babies. Hoping this latest obsession will last for more than a month, I’m committing a whole blog to it!
Why is Biking for Babies the best thing ever? First, you must know that as an aspiring Catholic priest (aka a seminarian), I have become quite obsessed with anything and everything that helps people grow into the saints they are meant to be. I’m always on the lookout for those new initiatives and programs that help bring alive the beauty, tradition, and wisdom of the Catholic faith in a more vibrant and tangible way for people to grow in virtue. Just having completed Biking for Babies as a first time rider, it’s safe to say that this program hits everything on my ‘best thing ever’ checklist and more. Here are 3 reasons why:
1. Biking for Babies Embraces Suffering
During the 600+ mile ride there were a lot of times I was thinking about how much better I’d feel chilling and eating anything other than granola-biker-bars, or just sleeping in and never using my legs again. But at the same time during my ride I was feeling this deep motivation, peace, and joy in doing something difficult for the glory of God and for the reparations of all the hurt caused by abortion. Knowing that I only averaged about 4 hours of sleep a night and biked between 8-10 hours each day, it’s strange to know where this peace came from. In a world that works tirelessly to eliminate all suffering, boredom, and discomfort, Biking for Babies successfully goes against the grain and uncovers a part of reality that many people willfully avoid: suffering.
St. Josemaria Escriva said it best: “As long as we walk on this earth, suffering will always be the touchstone of love”. Suffering helps us uncover and appreciate the best parts of this life. On a theological level, we can’t have supreme goodness (the resurrection) without tackling the tough moments in this life (the cross). I believe we aren’t happy unless we are fully giving ourselves to something beautiful, good, and true, and to do this well, it’s always a little painful. The old adage is true; anything worth doing in life is usually hard. Life is best understood through loss. Love is most felt when one has suffered. Peace is most vibrant and tangible when someone has gone through heartache. Oddly enough, it was the discomfort and the pain that made our Biking for Babies week so very vibrant and beautiful. Kudos to Biking for Babies for recognizing that comfort is overrated and asceticism can be full of joy!
2. Biking for Babies is the Perfect Analogy for Life (and Heaven!)
On our first day of Biking for Babies we rode 145 miles from Green Bay to Madison, WI. It was our longest and most arduous day of biking, full of blown out tires and sore bottoms. What made it so sweet for me was arriving in Madison with many of my friends and family that were so happy to see me. To have received this type of love and joy after a long day of biking made all the suffering worthwhile.
And isn’t this the best analogy for the Christian? We push as far as we can in this life to become better people, learn from our mistakes, suffer, love, and grow, and we hope we are greeted warmly with the heavenly host of angels, loved ones, and our dear Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ at the end of our life. With complete bliss in front of us, we recognize that we were guided and loved the whole time during our life, and we would go through the pain of this life all over again if it was all for the completion of this sanctified moment (“for a day in Your courtyards is better than a thousand elsewhere” Psalm 84:10). We suffer here on earth, and it’s worth it for the Kingdom to come.
3. Biking for Babies Bonding Besties
Say that 10 times fast! I have been blessed to have been a part of many different teams, initiatives, staff, and programs over the last 10 years, and I have never seen such intimacy and love form so quickly as Biking for Babies. Many times in this world, teams tend to have traces of politics and manipulative motives in the foreground where it looks like people are working together, but more often than not people are lobbying for their own needs to be met. But because we had such a heavy and important task at hand, and since these missionaries just gave 5 months of their time fundraising and training for these 6 days, people were really invested and all-in for getting to St. Louis for a cause they really believed in. God was at the center.
Now, the only way to bike 600+ miles is to do it together (for it’s pretty tough to carry 6 days of food and water on your back!). Since everyone embraced the mission and picked up their cross willingly, we were able to become close with each other quickly. More time was spent on everyone doing everything they could to make sure their neighbor was doing well and less time was spent complaining. It made us quickly trust each other knowing that everyone had everyone else’s best interest and goodwill in mind. I wish everyone could have experienced the intimacy and joy of our team (shout out to Northern Route 2021!)
So I lied. Biking for Babies is not the best thing ever (gasp! A lying seminarian!). It’s only the best thing ever because it does a really good job bringing out the best Person ever–Jesus Christ. Biking for Babies does an amazing job forcing you outside your comfort zone; to go into the breach of this messy world and our messy selves. It not only helps us to stand up to all the pain and suffering in our world that Christ longs for us to sanctify, but it also helps to confront the sinful and slothful parts of ourselves. Biking for Babies missionaries don’t just come out with ripped calves, but with more purified souls. Biking for Babies is a healing movement for this broken world, and it’s also producing saints. May the good Lord continue to bless this amazing program more and more so that His Name will be made known to all, “especially to those who are in most need of Thy mercy.”