The Paralysis of Perfection

Reflections From the Seat of a Bicycle

“Why are you riding Sea to Sea?” I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked this question by others riders, local strangers, or people we met at churches. It’s a good question, but every time I give a slightly different answer that is never a complete thought. In order to sufficiently answer this question, I need more than the 20 second window that the inquisitors have to offer.

To illustrate my feelings I want to begin with this short essay (even though I think this story is a bit cliché).

 

An old man had a habit of early morning walks on the beach. One day, after a storm, he saw a human figure in the distance moving like a dancer. As he came closer he saw that it was a young woman and she was not dancing but was reaching down to the sand, picking up a starfish and very gently throwing them into the ocean.
“Young lady,” he asked, “Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”
“The sun is up, and the tide is going out, and if I do not throw them in they will die.”
“But young lady, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it? You cannot possibly make a difference.”
The young woman listened politely, paused and then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves,
saying, “It made a difference for that one.”
The old man looked at the young woman inquisitively and thought about what she had done. Inspired, he joined her in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved.

Loren Eiseley’s essay, “The Star Thrower”

 

Sea to Sea did not cure poverty. It did not end world hunger or cure the endemic of HIV/AIDS. The organization was not a perfectly operated or executed non-profit. But just because it didn’t do it all, doesn’t mean that it didn’t so something. Sea to Sea did do something and it was good. It raised funds for the supporting international organizations. Grants were given out to combat local efforts. It spread awareness across the continent of the problem of the poverty. Participants gained knowledge and insights from each other about a variety of issues. Look at all that progress. Sea to Sea may only be saving one starfish in the vast ocean of global problems throughout the decades, but we know that it was also part of something bigger.

 

A quotation from Friedrich Nietzsche can be applied to this theme: “the essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.” Sea to Sea is part of a long obedience in the same direction. It was one more step in the same direction. This right direction is not a quick and easy road to travel. It is a long and toilsome journey that requires perseverance.

 

Similarly, C.S. Lewis exclaims in The Weight of Glory, “I have received no assurance that anything we can do will eradicate suffering. I think the best results are obtained by people who work quietly away at limited objectives, such as the abolition of the slave trade, or prison reform, or factory acts, or tuberculosis, not by those who think they can achieve universal justice, or health, or peace. I think the art of life consists in tackling each immediate evil as well as we can.”

 

The problem of poverty is an immediate evil. Sea to Sea was part of a journey of limited objectives and long obedience in the same direction as best it could to fight this evil.

 

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Mother Teresa highlights here the importance of each of us taking action, no matter how big or small. The power of one can make a difference. Sea to Sea helped one person, one family, one community, one state, one country, one starfish at a time.

 

In summary, I want to share one of my favorite poems. It encapsulates these thoughts of the power of one (person, movement or organization) and speaks volumes to the idea that the whole must be made up of small steps.

 

“It helps now and then to step back and take a long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a small fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection. No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the Church’s mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about: We plant the seeds that will one day grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it well. It may be incomplete but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.”

Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador (1917-1980), possibly original to Bishop Ken Untener (emphasis added)

 

Avoid the paralysis of the “too big.” Be liberated by realizing you can’t do everything. Avoid stagnation and the fear of not being perfect. Rather, do something. And do something well. Take action. Make just one difference. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

 

And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

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Week 9 – The end

Yet another beautiful week. Part of Monday and all of Tuesday was spent along the shore of Lake Champlain. Tuesday we climbed around 6600 feet. It one of the hardest days of the tour but also very fun and pretty. ImageMy ridding buddy for the day, Marc and I took a short, 8 mi detour to Vermont and back to quick get another state off our checklist! We ended up doing over 90 mi that day. The rest of the week was full of humidity and more climbing as we crossed the Adirondacks. I tried to ride with different friends one last time as it was the last week of the tour. On Saturday, we passed hundreds of riders, all going the opposite way as us. See, we were heading into New York City and they were all heading out. Man, were there some nice bikes that we saw that day. After crossing the George Washington Bridge, we rode Imagealong the west side of Manhattan, following the Hudson River to the ferry for Staten Island. Wow, what a crazy and busy ride through the big city! Everybody seemed to be out on that Saturday morning. But we made it. We took the ferry. And we had a police escort on Staten Island to the tire dipping ceremony. At the entrance to the beach, I spotted a sign that said “Congrats Adam.” And it took me a minute to realize that was for me! My Grandma and Grandpa Koeman traveled to NYC to surprise me! Such a blessing. The tire dipping was a great end cap to a long journey. What was really special was completing this whole trip with my Grandpa and Grandma, as well as the many friends I made along the way. Saturday evening we had a ceremony for friends and family that was good closure for the tour. The goodbyes were hard to say. But God is faithful. We made it. We did it. To Him be the glory, forever and ever.

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Here are some fun stats from the whole tour:

3678.5 miles ridden

3 flat tires

0 falls

102.4 mi – longest distance

50.7 mph – top speed

6 hours 42 minutes – longest saddle time

7000 ft – most climbing in one day

10, 022 ft – highest elevation

Rode parts of Route 66, the Oregon Trail, RAGBRAI routes, 2008 C2C routes, through the geographic center of the US (48 states), across the continental divide, and more

Swam/touched/crossed the Pacific Ocean, the Colorado River, the Arkansas River, the Mississippi River, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence Seaway, Lake Champlain, the Hudson River, and the Atlantic Ocean

13 States

2 Providences

2 Countries

1 Continent

1 trip of a lifetime

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Week 8 Update

The 8th week of the tour and the only full week in Canada has been a delight. As some have said, we have been eating our way across Ontario. The local churches have been taking such good care of us, mostly in the form of baked goods. I was thoroughly impressed and overwhelmed every day with the number of stops each day and the delicious food at each. Their generosity is inspiring. Another large piece that has made this week a joy has been biking along the coast of Lake Ontario, a bay of the lake, or the St. Lawrence Seaway every day. Finally, this week also consisted of a few days of urban riding. We rode through downtown Toronto and the outskirts of Montreal.

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On Friday one of my friends on the tour organized a time trail, just for fun. There were 30 some people who participated and even prizes for different age and gender categories. The span was between two of the SAGs and a distance of 16.3 miles. Riders were started at one minute intervals. It was fun to participate, push myself for a little distance and see how fast I could go.

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On Saturday we passed into province #2, Quebec. Staying on the outskirts of Montreal, we just hung around camp in the evening and played a euchre tournament! Sunday, we went into the city for a church/celebration service at a gorgeous cathedral-like church. We had the opportunity to explore the city afterward, which was fascinating as it was probably the most progressive city I have visited.

We are entering the last week of the tour, which is bittersweet but mostly sad and hard to believe. The time has flown by. It should be yet another beautiful week of riding through upstate New York ending with a police escort in Manhattan to Staten Island.

Stay tuned for reflections that I have been pondering from the seat of my bicycle.

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Week 7, eh?

Greetings from the Great White North! We made it into Canada!

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To everyone’s great surprise, we were able to continuing biking once we crossed the border into Canada. I’m not sure where all the snow is- we don’t even need our tuques! We were prepared to switch from our bikes to dog sleds and snowshoes. But I haven’t even seen one penguin!

Nah, just teasing all of my Canadian friends. In all honestly, our time so far in Canada has been such a treat. The hospitality at the border crossing and many towns along the way has blown my mind. We have been given so many baked goods and delicious meals. Whether family members of cyclists or churches or schools, we have been treated like royalty and blessed by their generosity.

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An example of what we drafted, but without its conveyor belt raised

Before crossing the border, we finished riding across Michigan. On Monday, we were riding through some rural country when I was able to catch the draft of a hay baler. It happened to be going the same way we were- for 17 miles! I cruised right along at 25 mph. That sure helped the day’s route go quicker! In biking, we have found many little metaphors that relate to life. When drafting behind somebody (or something), they are breaking the wind for you. They work harder ahead of you so that you can follow close behind them and have an easier time. I am thankful for drafting behind people ahead of me, just like I am thankful for those who have gone ahead of me in life. They have worked hard and then helped me out as I come along behind them. To those who have helped pave the way for me by offering advice or however they have made the road easier, thank you.

We also passed through Flint, MI en route and once again saw a vivid example of poverty. Riding by abandoned buildings and overgrown properties was a good reminder of the urban poverty that exists, in many parts of the States.

Week 7 has been completed and only 2 weeks of the tour remain. I cannot believe how fast time has gone. We look forward to the only full week of the tour in Canada, then our last week ride through New York. Prayers for continued safety and healthy bikes and people would be appreciated.

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The ferry crossing

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The Great Lakes in Sarnia, ON

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At the base of the Blue Water Bridge.

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Week 6 Complete

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This weeks journey began with many miles on the road, but with many blessings to count along the way. Monday night in Fulton, IL my friend Brandon Haan and I had the privilege of staying with our mutual friends: Adrian and Kaylee De Lange. They provided us with shelter, beds, showers, and delicious food. For these simple pleasures, we were so thankful to them. Monday we also crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois (state #8). 945751_10201270842600667_518634905_n

Tuesday we rode pretty much all day in the rain. Wednesday evening we stayed at Illiana Christian high school where we were tread very well with dinner, ice cream and breakfast the next morning. Thursday was a beautiful ride through trails in Indiana (state #9) and along Lake Michigan for much of the day. After 6 weeks, we finally made it back into Pure Michigan (state #10) making it a 3-state day. Friday was yet another rainy day riding from Benton Harbor to Holland, but spirits were lifted because I was finally riding into familiar territory which felt very strange.

In Holland, I was welcomed by my family and we had some good quality time together downtown at New Holland Brewery. It was so refreshing to sleep in my own bed again as well. It is amazing how often I am not thankful for daily blessings such as a bed. Saturday was a much different day on the tour because we had a short day to Grand Rapids. There were extra, special stops for snacks put out by locals and tons of additional day riders, including my friend Ross and my dad. We rode with Grandpa too, so that made for 3 generations of Wiersma men. The rest of the weekend was spent resting, with family, and celebrating. It was such a blessing to be home and with people I love, but it also makes it hard to leave again for the last 3 weeks.

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I am looking forward to riding through parts of Canada, of which I am less familiar. For about the next 2 weeks, I will not have phone service so contact me via the internet.

Thank you to all of you many supporters! With your help and God’s strength, the next 3 weeks will be completed to finish out this journey.

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Week 5

Hello to all lovely family and friends and other readers.

There is not much new to write about this week. We had another good week biking mostly through Iowa. Contrary to popular belief, all of Iowa is not flat. Quite the opposite in the southern parts through which we have been riding. Every day our elevation chart looks like a heart monitor – constant ups and downs.

 

This weekend I was blessed to be able to spend time with my good friends Ross and Emily. They showed me around downtown Iowa City as well as the University of Iowa. Emily’s family, the Eilers, were generous enough to let Ross and me stay with them on Saturday evening. I was blessed with a delicious home cooked meal, a private warm shower, playing games on a front porch, and even sleeping in a real bed. It’s safe to say that I was one happy camper all weekend, not to mention the good company!

 

This coming week is one of the biggest weeks in terms of mileage. But I have Holland and Grand Rapids to look forward to at the end of the week. It will be wonderful to see family and friends!

 

All for now- it’s past my bedtime.

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Week 4 Update

Greetings from our weekend stay in Burlington, Nebraska. During week 4 we hit several milestones:

  • Left Colorado

  • Biked through a corner of Kansas (state #5)

  • Entered Nebraska (state #6)Image

  • Entered the Central time zone

  • Passed by the geographic center of the United States (the continuous 48 states)Image

  • Rode another century day

  • Rode our first day in pouring rain (it has rained quite a bit, but usually around dinnertime)

  • Encountered the winds of the plains, unfortunately mostly as crosswinds and headwinds.

  • Saturday night we filled up the local bowling alley. As a bonus, the Tigers were playing Kansas City so it was on TV and I could watch part of a game!

  • A Sabbath banquet fit for heaven. The church we attended greatly blessed us with the biggest potluck lunch I have ever seen. There were 20 long tables filled with casseroles salads and desserts. Oh baby.Image

Not much other new news on this end. We continue to bike each day! This coming week I am greatly looking forward to the weekend stay in Iowa City because some of my friends from back home are driving out! It will be a nice break from camp life. I am blessed to have such great support from them!

Prayer Request:

Two of my good friends on the tour bumped into each other and it resulted in them both falling. They were taken to the hospital, but are okay and should be back riding shortly. Prayers for their healing would be much appreciated.

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