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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Calling, Day 12: Downhill Glides, Uphill Climbs

“I love riding downhill. I just hate having to go back up.” -       Camille Michel, Age 8

Our neighborhood streets are potholed and treacherous. While the houses are impeccably maintained, the roads are not. Residents have theories as to this apparent incongruence. The one I hear most frequently is that they deliberately prefer their roads at their near-impassable state to order to keep unwanted people from cutting through our side streets.

It works. I live here and prefer to drive as little as possible in my own neighborhood.

It does, however, make bike riding particularly thrilling and hair-raising: there is no small amount of gripping the handlebars you have to do when you take to these streets on your bike. And because Toronto sports a fair amount of elevation, at any moment your front wheel could fly out from under you, sending you sailing into someone’s neat row of boxwoods.

The kids have a love/hate relationship with biking around here. As I’ve quoted Camille at the beginning of this post, she has said, “I love riding downhill. I just hate having to go back up.” That probably has far less to do with the potholes than with the magnitude of our neighborhood hills. To Chicagoans like us, we may as well be living at the foot of Mount Everest.

But I think Camille has aptly put what calling can feel like. One dimension of calling is the easy, downhill glide where effortlessly, you cruise. The wind is at your back. Heck, you’re not even pedaling! Because I consider writing a kind of calling in my life, this downhill glide is for me the minimal effort it takes to sit at my keyboard and pound out several hundred words, although this may or may not say more than I would like to admit about the sheer volume of words I have pitching in my brain and itching at my fingertips. But generally, the writing part is easy, fun. If this were all I had to do all day, I would find little to complain about.

But there’s another part of calling, which is far more grueling and difficult. They are the hills we have to climb towards whatever height of purpose God is calling us. At the bottom of the hills, we survey the impossibilities. Our body, the hills, the sun beating overhead. There is simply NO way we’re getting to the top. For me, as I’ve committed myself this year to finishing a book manuscript, my hills are the demands of publishing. I simply hate words like platform and marketing, which I’ll try to explain more tomorrow. (And although generally we have a rule in this house that you don’t say hate unless you’re talking about raccoons, I’ve now given myself two more exceptions.) Do I really have to think about having to sell a book? Apparently, I do because the only way to interest an agent/publisher in the book you’re writing is to convince them you can actually contribute towards selling it. Uggh.

Right about now, I want to take my bike, plunk it down in the garage, open a carton of Chapman’s vanilla ice cream, and find a good movie on Netflix. Because this is too dang hard.

Thank God for downhill glides because sometimes, that’s the only reason I get on the bike at all.

Thank God for uphill climbs because there’s where I’m meant to learn my dependence.

Every work/relationship/ministry – calling - is this two-headed beast. Calling can’t be all the glorious effortlessness of the downhill because you wouldn’t gain the resilience and endurance, wouldn’t grow the sheer muscle mass that your calling will require of you. And calling can’t be only the sweaty, exhausting climbs because what would be the joy of that?

If today, the wind is at your back and you don’t need to do much pedaling, praise God for the beauty that blurs past and the sheer exhilarating joy of your ride. But if, for another reason, you have a hill to climb and all you see are the impossibilities, lift your eyes and ask: “From where does my help come?”

My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

Whatever you do, wherever you are, and however your calling finds you, do just this one thing today:

Get on your bike.