16 Oct Eyes Up!
A handful of shimmering leaves, shades of green, yellow, and gold, twisted through my field of vision. Moistened by the midnight rain, they fluttered to the road, clung to the rocky shoulder, and twirled into the mist. A feathery blanket of fog melted into the valleys while sunlight sparkled on the peaks of the Blue Ridge. The six of us made our way up the mountain, buoyed by a quarter-inch of Michelin rubber and a watercolor of natural scenery. Stunning vistas at every turn, crisp air for our lungs, and cinnamon rolls in the distance, this may have been the single most scenic ride I’ve been on all year.
“Was this all dumb luck?”
My riding partner turned to me with a puzzled look. “Excuse me?”
I don’t understand how someone can take in such a glorious sight and believe that all this happened through dumb luck. Even an average sunrise can be beautiful but this one was spectacular. There’s no way all this just happened. There has to be a creator, a painter behind this world. A Monet behind every mountain, a Renoir for the raindrops.
I’ve been a cyclist for many years. My bikes have taken me through city streets, to work, to finish lines, and through forests at breath-taking speed. They’ve taken me to heaven and back, and to a couple of Emergency Rooms. And when I ride, I’m totally open to the elements. I don’t wear earbuds; I listen to the earth. Bird song, the scratch of squirrel’s feet, the buzz of insects, the rush of the river, and the hellos and good mornings of other cyclists, pedestrians or drivers. There is so much beauty in our world and when I ride, I want to get as close to it as possible. A convertible, a motorcycle, a sunroof? None of those options offer the combination of immediacy, speed, and aerobic benefit that cycling does. And when I ride, I often contemplate our natural world and express my gratitude for all its beauty.
I know — Christianity offers up a world of mystery and puzzles. At times it can feel like an enormous Rubik’s Cube that can only be solved through faith, because the colors will never match up. A benevolent creator that always was and always will be? How is that possible? And what about that whole Adam and Eve thing? Come on! At the other end is the Big Bang theory. An idea that dust formed in the void, attracted more dust, there was an explosion, then a few years later we’ve got Oregon Pinot Noir, Blue Ridge sunrises, Ferrari Daytonas, and my wife’s smile.
Dumb luck? There’s no way. The mathematical equation that would allow for this much complexity stretches into farcical implausibility. But I’ve also looked through enormous telescopes and wondered at the size, complexity and sheer grandiosity of our universe. I’ve scratched at ancient fossils embedded in the Mississippi River, marveled at the size of dinosaur skeletons on exhibit in Chicago, and held the tooth of a million year-old megalodon. I’m a ravenous star gazer that knows every time I look at the night sky, I’m looking at light that could be millions of years old. Where does all of this fit in to Genesis?
And what about that guy Jesus? The son of God. The man that literally changed the world and asked us to obey the commandments, forgive one another, and live in peace. Nailed to a cross, left for dead, rose on the third day then ascended to heaven. Skeptical? Well, there’s only two options. Jesus was either a certifiable nut job, or he was really the son of God. Are you prepared to believe that a nut job changed the world? I didn’t think so.
So what’s the answer? With either theory, you’ve got to have a big helping of faith. If that Big Bang thing is accurate, then who created the void? Who created the dust that caused the spark that created the universe? Who set that mathematical equation in motion?
The shriek of Blue Jays jolted me from my contemplation. When Jays are threatened by a predator, they’ll work together to chase off the potential threat. As they screeched through the oaks, I stole a quick look and spotted the unmistakable barrel shape of a Great Horned Owl. And again, I found myself marveling the complexity of our world, while my friends chided me for day dreaming. “Eyes up, Malik!”
I stood up on the pedals and danced, pushed over the top of the climb, slipped into the big ring and stole a big gulp of water as I crested the Saluda grade. I passed through thirty miles an hour. The Carolina mountains sparkled in countless shades of green and yellow, and my prayer of gratitude and thanks echoed across the valley then arced its way to Heaven.