When my youngest daughter was five, we bought her a tagalong bicycle that hooked to the back of my bike. This made it easy to take long rides as a family without wearing her out. The tagalong just had one wheel and its own chain so it didn’t matter if she pedaled or not. It was up to me to do the heavy lifting. Whenever my daughter got tired, she could just sit back and enjoy the ride.
This worked great for a few years, but eventually she outgrew the tagalong. She could ride her own bike just fine, and her extra weight made the tagalong feel wobbly and unstable.
But when that time came, we discovered we didn’t want to give it up. Sure we didn’t need to ride together any more, but we both agreed it was the together part that made long bike rides fun.
Sometimes it’s hard to talk to other people when you’re riding a bike, but with the tagalong we were so close we had a constant conversation going. We marveled at the same cool sights, laughed at the same funny things and experienced everything on the ride together. It was such a blast, we knew riding separately would be a letdown.
That’s when we decided to move up to a tandem. The tandem took the together experience to a whole new level. Now, we weren’t just riding two separate vehicles that were temporarily joined, but one, solid unit that required us to work as a team and constantly communicate. Now, we had to learn to pedal in sync, coast in sync and break in sync. Now my daughter wasn’t just along for the ride. She was part of making it happen.
The tandem took the together experience to a whole new level. Now, we weren’t just riding two separate vehicles that were temporarily joined, but one, solid unit that required us to work as a team and constantly communicate.
However, the other side of all this togetherness is when something goes wrong, you experience that together too. When my phone slipped out of my pocket, we spent a hot afternoon searching together. When we got caught in a torrential downpour, we both got soaked together. When we had a flat tire, we got to push the tandem back home together. When the chain slipped off, and we didn’t have a wrench, we got to push it together once more.
Of course, now those are our favorite stories, and those adventures just wouldn’t have been the same if we hadn’t experienced them together.
The thing I’ve learned most from riding with my daughter is whether it’s a good day or a bad day together is better than alone. God made us for relationships, first to enjoy an eternal relationship with himself and then for deep friendships with others.
Much of the Bible sounds like it was written by someone who’d spent serious time on a tandem bike. Ecclesiastes 2:9 says, “Two are better than one,” and Ruth 1:16 declares, “Where you go I will go.” Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times.” Jesus himself said, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 NIV).
Biblical friendship is all about sacrifice and faithfulness. It’s about having someone who is for you and is in it with you no matter what. That kind of friendship starts with God.
Throughout my life I’ve been blessed with a series of great tandem friendships, people who were always there for me and loved me sometimes more than I loved myself. But those friendships are a rare gift and sometimes few and far between. Throughout it all, though, during those long, lonely stretches when real friendship was nowhere to be found, God proved himself to be the most faithful friend of all.
Because I’ve been loved by God, it makes it a whole lot easier to love others. Because I’ve been on the receiving end of a love that never quits, it makes me want to be a friend that never quits for someone else.
True confession, I’m not always the greatest friend. I get busy and distracted and forget to check in on people. I tell someone I’ll pray for them and then space it until after the need has passed. I’m a way better talker than a listener. But I’ve seen faithful friendship in action through God loving me and through the people he’s put in my life who have loved me more than I deserve, and that makes me want to be a tandem friend. •
Jason Byerly is a writer, pastor, husband and dad who loves the quirky surprises God sends his way every day. You can read more from Jason in his books Tales from the Leaf Pile and Holiday Road. You can catch up with Jason on his blog at www.jasonbyerly.com.
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