You Can’t Ride A Frozen Bicycle

I recently visited Sapporo, Japan. The snow was beautiful and preparations for the Ice Festival were quite interesting.

Brought along an extra suitcase filled with winter clothes only to find the daily weather unusually warm, but still freezing overnight.

We got fresh snow each morning. Then enough sun to make the snow soggy. Each night the temperature dropped enough to turn the soggy stew of snow into a mass of ice. And it is here that our story begins…

Snow is really pretty stuff. Don’t know if no two snowflakes are truly ever alike but I do know that they are pretty.

Snowflakes drifting down feel kind of friendly. They wrap the world in a blanket of loveliness, even hushing the harsher sounds of everyday life. Easy for them to lull you into inaction. And that is what happened to the owners of a couple of bicycles I found entombed in an icy snowbank .

These bikes were frozen in place. Encased in a mound of ice that rose higher than their axles. You couldn’t get them out without breaking, melting or destroying them in some other way.

The owners made a crucial mistake when snows first appeared. Perhaps there were a couple of days when the snow didn’t stick. Or maybe they got lazy. Either way, lethargy left their bikes useless while other bicyclists regularly traverse the white stuff as they go about their daily business (Yes, Japanese ride bicycles in the snow). That’s not the only problem, the bikes could be lost. Snowplows regularly toss the stuff into man-high mounds which are often bulldozed into parks or other off-road locations. A snow covered bike might be crushed under a mountain of ice.

What’s that got to do with you and me?

Well, sometimes we get fresh new ideas—ideas so good they lull us to sleep. They seduce us into lethargy. Their very freshness is seductive. We find ourselves wrapped in a sweet blanket of innovation only to succumb to the wax and wane of cultural temperatures. In short our fresh ideas melt a little over time. If we’re not careful they can then freeze into institutional snowbanks.

The problem with those Sapporo bike-owners is that they settled for ownership rather than ridership. In an unholy mix of metaphors, they got off the pony and left it to freeze to death.

This is no cry against long-standing church tradition, though the metaphor would apply. My concern is for lively new church plants that get stuck in the very ideas that gave them life. Routine can lead to a kind of spiritual paralysis resembling the fate of those bikes.

I think the key is ongoing ridership. We must keep moving to stay out of the icebank.