I have a cycling computer that measures my current speed, average speed, cadence, heart rate, etc. It’s amazing what those little things can do. I purchased this small wonder because cyclists better than I had one. Also, I was taught during my time in the corporate world that measuring oneself led to improvement; and I wanted to be the best cyclist I could be.

My cycling computer has done what I bought it to do, and more. It has become my electronic riding partner. It encourages me to push harder at certain stages of my ride. It motivates me to finish each ride a little faster than the previous one. It “pats me on the back”; letting me know at the end of each ride that I have accomplished something.

My cycling computer has become a very important part of my riding experience; and that’s not appropriate. How do I know? Well, God showed me.

You see, becoming a better rider is not the only reason I cycle. I cycle to maintain (maybe even improve) my health. I cycle because I enjoy the outdoors. I cycle because there is still a bit of kid in me, and every kid likes to ride a bike. At least they did when I was a kid.

Most of all, I cycle to meet with God. Like some who go for walks to get away with God, I climb on a bike and start pedaling. God meets me there. He asks me questions; and He answers many of mine. He gives me direction – for myself and for those whom He has made me responsible. I cannot begin to express how blessed and thankful I am that God would allow me to spend time with Him while enjoying the benefits of cycling.

God also corrects me when we are out riding. He always relates His life lessons to my cycling; many times using my adventures in cycling as metaphors for more important matters. I would like to share the latest with you as an introduction to a series I am calling “Lessons While Cycling”. (If you come up with a better title, please let me know.)

Measurement Pitfalls

On a recent ride, I noticed that I was having a difficult time focusing on my conversation with God. It troubled me; maybe because it seemed to be a developing pattern. So I asked God, “What’s the problem here?”

At that very moment, I caught myself looking down at my cycling computer, checking to see how my average speed was looking. God said, “That’s the problem. That little device has become a distraction.”

With more hesitation than I would like to admit, I turned my “cycling partner” off (the computer, not God). And then God began to reveal to me the pitfalls of measurement. Here are the ones I have learned so far:

  1. Measuring my performance distracts me from enjoying God’s presence. It motivates me to perform at a higher level for my own satisfaction. This focus on performance and self is the opposite of what God wants for my life. He wants me to focus on Him.
  2. Measuring a secondary goal (i.e., becoming a better cyclist) tends to promote that goal as something more important than goals that are not being measured. Because the measure is more immediate and definite, it now dominates my attention, drawing me away from the other reasons I ride: Enjoying the outdoors and being in God’s presence.
  3. Measuring itself can become more important than it should. Measuring should be a tool to ensure someone or something is on track. When we allow it to be the source of our reward, encouragement and satisfaction, it becomes an idol.
  4. Measures must be carefully associated to God’s desire, purpose, goal, values and plan. I believe God wants me to be healthy; and He approves of me becoming the best rider I can be. However, when I take ownership of the measure, I risk taking control of the goal and plan.
  5. This can end badly. For example, I realized that I was pushing myself so hard to ride faster, that I was damaging my body. My motivator should be the goal of staying healthy. If the measure associated with that goal (i.e., riding faster) is my motivator, then it can do quite the opposite – driving me to hurt myself through over-training.
  6. Measures can be used to deceive. We can deceive ourselves (e.g., determining that the pain is worth the gain). We can also be deceived by others (e.g., a sales person padding the numbers).

These lessons have some serious applications in our everyday life. For example, one of my most important goals in life is to love my wife more each day. If the measures of my love for her (How much does she recognize my love? How much do I feel her loving me back?) becomes my motivation, then I run the risk of it, and her, becoming an idol.

Kept in perspective, her response is only a measure of my effectiveness at loving her. It should not be my motivator. My motivator should be my obedience to the One that says, “Love her”. If I am doing well, then I turn to God and say, “Thank you.” If I am doing poorly, I turn to God and say, “Help me.” In either case, I turn to God.

Measuring is not a bad thing, as long as it is kept in proper perspective. In fact, the discipline of turning to God at the end of the day may be as important as at the beginning. It can be the time of examination and assessment, correction and encouragement over the things God has been trying to do with us that day (e.g., loving my wife). This becomes a protected time in the presence of God; a time that allows us to renew our minds, and train our souls, to live this way continually.

BTW: This is true regarding our measurement of others. Yes, as leaders we are required to measure other people, both their performance and their character. Measurement is a part of leading with diligence. W hatever we discover in our measurement of others, we must bring it to God and His purpose, goals and plan for that person. This is a key factor in what we call “accountability”.

The Rest of the Story

So, I have decided to put away my computer for now. I am refocusing on the most important reason I ride: To commune with God. Interestingly, the first time I did this, it seemed that I was stronger physically. When I got home, Beth commented, “That didn’t take long.”

Each ride since has been the same. There is something supernatural going on here. And there is a life lesson: Be suspicious of your measures. Have they become motivators? Have they pushed out God? Have you prioritized your measures to match the priority of their related goals? Are you responding to your measures appropriately?

Your servant and His forever,