by Kevin Biese, 2022 missionary (rider on Mississippi Route) and Director of Health and Wellness
A heavy fog was all around our team of yellow jerseys. For the first time all week we were legitimately cold as the sun was completely blocked from sight. I had been leading the team for the first 30 minutes as we made our way out of Lake Geneva, WI, and into the rolling farmland around us. As we finally headed east, a direction we would take for some time, I felt it: a headwind. It was the strongest wind we had all week, and it just so happened to be right in my face. I shifted up a gear and watched my speedometer – 15.5 mph….16.5 mph…17.6 mph. 15 minutes or so went by and I held this pace and my teammate behind me shouted up, “do you need a break from the wind? We can switch.” I looked back and said, “no, I need to be in the lead, I’m riding angry.” At that statement, the proverbial gloves came off, I looked forward and in my heart and mind I entered a wrestling match with God to express my not-so-subtle anger at the situation it felt like He put us in.
Like Job, I laid out my case and the case for my team. The Mississippi route (to be renamed the Wiscossippi route) was ready for this year’s National Ride. For the most part, our team fundraised well and trained well before the ride. There was a cohesion with the new missionaries before the National Ride even started that I had never experienced before. I have been doing this ride for a long time and I feel confident saying, as a team, this was one of the most prepared teams I’ve ever been a part of. As it would happen, we faced a lot of unfortunate circumstances over the first couple of days of our ride. Painful for our team, yes, but our resolve and heart to stay true to our mission was there. It felt like we were destined to end in St. Louis with the other routes…until two pink lines changed all of that.
Those two pink lines came from a COVID test one of our teammates took in Dyersburg, TN. For the safety of the communities we bike through, we all knew our ride to St. Louis was over. Instead of disbanding to isolate back with family, our team accepted a very gracious offer to isolate at a lake house in Lake Geneva, WI, where we would continue the mission to whatever capacity we could. We drove 8.5 hours north and arrived at 2:00am in Lake Geneva to find out that it was supposed to storm all day that day. With the lightning in the area, we stayed indoors and occupied ourselves with fundraising calls. On Day 6, instead of riding into St. Louis, here I was leading my team into a freaking headwind. It just seemed like the cherry on the cake. But what really got me going was that by missing St. Louis, I was now missing my friends and family. I have endured a lot of pain on National Rides in the past, but this one I threw right in God’s face. After all the sacrificing and preparation, and I still don’t get to see my family…that’s a low blow, uncalled for, absolutely maddening!
I’m sure I was up to 18 mph at this point into that stupid headwind. I knew my quads were burning but I didn’t care. I did concede with God that all my anger would go into my pedals and I’m proud to say I was able to at least do that. The rest of my anger was poured out to Him. I did not understand why our team had to suffer so much and why I was being withheld from seeing the greatest gift that He Himself ever gave me in my wife and kids.
As I laid out my case, I waited in the cool mist with the wind rushing past my ears. Then, support crew hung a sign with our team mascot Olaf right next to it that read, “Bright side, turtles can breathe through their butts. ~Olaf” I laughed and cried a bit immediately. For me, the message was clear: “you’ve been listening to yourself now for hours, now listen to me.” And I would. Over the last couple of days, I have prayed over this anger and looked for God’s response. The first came relatively quickly on the bike as I started to realize how sore my legs were. When we follow Christ, we do not get to choose our cross. I knew how I wanted to suffer this year on Biking for Babies, mainly physically on the bike, and I had suffered in every other way besides that way. When we choose to love God and our neighbor first, a generation of truly pro-life individuals must understand that we may be asked to suffer in ways we were not prepared for. Christ shows us this in his discourse with Peter at the end of John’s gospel: “Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go…follow me.” For my heart to truly will the good of my neighbor, I cannot have presumed ways in which I need to suffer for them. Instead, I need to, with an open heart, be prepared to offer myself for them in any way they need.
Secondly, my prayer led me to an uncomfortable answer from God: there are many women who are angry with God about their current situation and possibly their current pregnancy. We must go with them, be with them, and love them in this moment when there may not be an easy answer. Some people suffer a lifetime of anger with God and are constantly asking, “why me?” Those people need a generation that is willing to experience that anguish they feel. Though my anger was fleeting in comparison, I still pray it provides me a lens that I may use again in the future to walk side by side with a woman who is struggling with anger towards an unplanned pregnancy.
In the end, I was right where I needed to be, and God permitted me to be there for His greater glory. I pray the next time I am in a similar situation that I may have the humility to remember that God is God and I am not. And with that mindset, I pray that I am more compassionate, more giving, and more merciful in a way that truly brings about the culture of life that I spent 6 days being a witness of.