I have these rules which are guidelines and reminders for navigating life. This rule is not my own but one borrowed (stolen) from motorcycling. Specifically, from riding the hairpin turns of Tail of the Dragon near the Smoky Mountain National Park. Those 11 miles of Route 129 has over 300 twisty and challenging corners. On every road, but especially that road, it is important to ride your own ride and not someone else’s.
What this means is staying within your own limits and abilities. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t stretch them but if we try to take that impossibly tight corner like a seasoned rider on better equipment the remnants of our ride will become part of the Tail of the Dragon’s Tree of Shame.
The Tree of Shame sits at the start of the run in Deals Gap. Its trunk and limbs are covered with broken pieces of motorcycles. Each one lamenting a crack-up (and in some cases someone’s death.) It is a somber warning to ride your own ride. This rule grants permission, even approval, to ride within my margin instead of feeling shame for not riding like someone else. And yes, it does apply to more than just riding motorcycles.
So often we compare ourselves with others. Either lamenting how far ahead they are in some aspect or laughing at how far behind they are. In other words, our self-worth is often tied to others more than ourselves. I see this tendency boil over at work, in the home, and everywhere we encounter people.
Even in Christian circles, this tendency exists. How many times have I seen a younger (in the Lord) believer take on the language, actions, and attitudes of a particular leader without having their foundation? The result is often the same, a crack-up and a reminder hung on the Tree of Shame. They were riding someone else’s ride and not their own. Striving for the fruit they see in others without growing the roots.
Many of us have perhaps felt the shame of not being like someone else. Perhaps we wished our family was like theirs, that our level of employment was like someone else, or that our Christian walk was as seemingly effortless as someone else’s. The problem is that we only see part of their life. What we don’t see are their hidden struggles, their quiet practices, or the many times they grew by learning from their failures.
But there is another aspect assumed within this rule which goes something like this – and let others ride their own ride. There’s a rule on the Dragon; if a faster bike catches you move over and allow them to pass. In other words, ride your own ride and let others do the same. There is no shame in being passed, only in not finishing the ride.
This rule frees us to be real with our faith. I don’t need to act like and talk like the master evangelist, the perfect pastor, the anointed healer, the studied theologian, or the person three pew’s back. Riding my own ride invites me to be me, with my gifts, talents, abilities, roots, and fruit. Always growing but always riding my own ride with Jesus. That’s hard since we all want to be liked and accepted. It may seem that the easiest way for acceptance is to act like someone who is admired. But the right way is the hard way of being ourselves and riding our own ride.
Where will you go if you ride your own ride? I don’t know, but it will be fantastic.