This summer has been a veritable feast of high-voltage sports (insert groan here!). Firstly, there was the fantastic World Cup of Football, and now in the bowels of July, the most exciting, cumulative days of the Tour de France are upon us. I realize it may seem like it, but I’m really not a big sports person. I’m just a really intense lover of these two highly distinctive athletic competitions.
The Tour is being broadcast live on Europe time, so of course you have to be up at 6:00 a.m. for the start of it. The thing I so enjoy, besides the ridiculously fit athletes, the passionate support of the crowds and the fastidious strategizing rivalling a grandmaster chess tournament, is the incredible journey through the bucolic French countryside. These days, the helicopter shots from the air give you the grand, sweeping panorama; lush vineyards, green, green pasture and farm lands in the lee of stately mountains. Dotted on the high hills are ancient cathedrals and stout chateaus with tiny villages clustered at their feet. It’s a voyage back in time. Just as you’re marveling at all this well-organized Gaelic husbandry, the vista dramatically drops back into the visceral dogfight on the tarmac. Crazy, careening scooters at ground level give you on-site action from cameras close enough to be flicked by the sweat flying off cyclists faces. You get all the electric excitement of a live, dangerous sport while at the same time feeling like you’ve had an exotic holiday. What could be better?
In the middle of all this concentrated combat, in the rapid flow of the commentary, my attention was instantly riveted by a single word. Have you ever had the experience of someone speaking out the heart of your desire in a way that suddenly donkey-kicking you in the solar plexus? Like a lightning bolt it strikes you, aligning the brain’s electrons and clearing nebulous mists of indecision and discontent. In an instant you know what you want. You know what you need. That’s the sensation I had when the sibilants of ‘slipstream’ hit my ear.
Slipstream. What a fabulous word. I savor it. A slipstream is created by when a rapidly moving object produces a vacuum of reduced air pressure, suctioning whatever is following closely behind it in its wake. In cycling strategy, this means that a team rider (domestique) goes ahead of the team leader, breaking the resistance of wind so that this point scorer may stay in his draft and conserve vast amounts of power for crippling uphill climbs to the final sprint. He rests in the slipstream. Also, riders in the Peloton (mass body of team cyclists) conserve huge reserves by bunching closely together and creating a slipstream ‘bubble’. Of course, at high speeds on treacherous winding mountain paths, one false move can wipe out a lot of cyclists, but it is the inside edge that makes or breaks a race for the leader. When you consider that the Tour de France is a strenuous (approximate) two hundred kilometers a day in all weathers, you can grasp the incredible importance of this unseen reservoir of energy. The team commandeer the slipstream to conserve critical stamina needed for the grueling twenty-three day haul.
Now take this lesson in physics and put it on a practical level. As human beings, we have quite considerable battery packs of vigor and vitality, but we’re not programmed to go 24/7. Multiple layers of demand drain us every day. Modern life is stressful, demanding ridiculous amounts of productivity in the shortest amount of time possible. It has completely despised and negated the element of rest upon which the very foundations of the world are resting (Genesis 2:1-3).
“And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”… There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His”. Hebrew 4:4, 9-10
Examine it closely, for in this passage you’ll find the slipstream of God. Firstly honoring the Sabbath principal of rest places us directly on the wheel of the Almighty. The Sabbath principal alone separates 95% of the Peloton from the leaders. It’s the spiritual spine on which the Lord’s entire schedual for working is founded. It automatically reinforces another principal Jesus gives us for finding and staying in the rapidly moving stream of the Spirit where travailing and striving cease.
Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. Matthew 7:13-14
“The Narrow Gate”. What precisely is that? It’s the choice to do things God’s way instead of indulging our rebellious self-will, or the moral short-cuts we think will bring us our desire. It’s waiting on the leading and timing of the Holy Spirit for all decisions. When we do this, we enter in the very works God personally created for us from the beginning of time. In this slipstream, all the resistance of toil, striving, disappointment, and disillusionment we face from the world slides off us. Finally, Jesus has one more directive for us to slip into great ease and resting.
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
As ministry stresses increase and the tempo quickens, only the slipstream will satisfy me. It's time to master this thing. It’s there, but there are things you've got to let go of; laboring, self-condemnation, fear and failure. Just like the Tour de France, every day is a new race, with new strategy and strength required.