They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. I guess that’s true for places as well as for people. It’s been a little over a year since I’ve last been mountain biking at the Auburn Confluence, or Auburn Connie as I sometimes call it. I had forgotten how much I loved biking there. It’s a happy place, whether I’m riding out there alone or with friends.
Today I went biking there with Geo, and he brought his dog Alfalfa. I’m usually not a big fan of small dogs. If I were to buy a dog, I would probably get myself a medium sized dog like a golden retriever or labrador or another jindo (basically a Korean labrador) because I would want to be able to go outdoors with it. But after riding with little Alfie I have a new found appreciation for smaller dogs. He was a good little trooper, following along right behind us the whole way. When we were climbing I could hear him following along right by my rear wheel, and when we were going downhill he sprinted along to try to catch up to us.
There are many reasons why I like the confluence trail. Of course the scenery is nice. (It seemed Alfie enjoyed the scenery too.) But one of the main reasons why I like this trail so much is that all the climbing is done at the beginning of the ride, so after the long workout in the beginning you can enjoy a gnarly descent all the way down to the starting area. The only thing that sucks about it is that it’s always over way too quickly.
Geo and I wanted to continue riding, but at that point we thought Alfie might be too tired. So we tried to carry him in Geo’s backpack while we continued on towards the quarry trail which is across the river from the confluence trail. But when we got to the trailhead it was apparent that he had enough energy to continue on. We rode for a bit on the quarry trail, but didn’t reach the end. For the most part the confluence trail was in the sun, so it was dry. The quarry trail was in the shade, so it was cold and muddy in some parts, which made climbing on the clay soil really tiring. So we turned back before the end. In the end I guess our legs got tired before Alfie’s.
This was my first time in several years riding as a passenger on a mountain biking trip. It’s usually me driving, which I’m totally okay with (since that’s more or less why I bought my Subaru.) But it was nice not having to drive, and now that we have two cars with bike racks we have the option to be lazy and drive ourselves to the top of the mountain and just bike the downhill portion. On our way to and from Auburn we talked a bit about the young adult fellowship group at DCCC that I used to go to. On Friday I had dropped by for the first time in many months, since I had a friend who wanted to see what it was like. So Geo and I got to talking for a bit about how things had changed over the past few years. And he said something that made me think.
Afterwards he dropped me off, and we went our separate ways. He went off to a birthday dinner for someone in that fellowship group, and I went off to the evening service at UCC. I had been going there for a while now (when I’m not out of town on some outdoor trip), but I never really made an effort to meet any people there, so I’m more or less an anonymous face in the congregation. I know a few people there, but they’re mostly expatriates from other churches that I already knew before coming to UCC.
After the service I went home and I found myself thinking about what George had said again. It bothered me. It bothered me a lot, because it was something that I used to strongly believe, but over the years my experiences had made me largely cynical, to the point where I no longer believe what he said.
What he said was something along the lines of, “You’d think that believing in Jesus would be enough to build a community.”
A few years ago, back when I was serving on core for the small group, we had a set of core values which formed the acronym CLOUDS. First and foremost in those core values was community. I wanted so much for us to be a community like the one in Acts 2, who rejoiced together and shared everything together. But the reality was that there was always people who felt left out of the community.
I often found myself sitting outside of the church, with someone who I felt who was a big part of that community, but who himself felt like an outsider. It was often cold outside on that bench, and sometimes he would sit there shivering. It was often really dark out there, especially during winter, but for him it was even darker, for he was born blind. One of those times when we were sitting out there, he said something along the lines of, “You’d think that believing in Jesus would be enough to build a community.” And back then I tried to reassure him that it was. I tried to reassure him that he was a big part of that community and that it cared for him but often it felt like those words fell on deaf ears.
There were times, though, that he really felt like he was part of the community. When I email him sometimes he reminisces about those times and I hope and pray that whenever he returns that he will feel like he’s a part of the community again. And there were many joyous times in that group for me too. I have many good memories from those days and many friends who I never would’ve met without it.
But that time also took it’s toll on me. I am not exactly a social butterfly, but I forced myself to try to be more outgoing and tried to be there for people. That’s when I began to realize what it truly meant to be an introvert. Those days were draining, and I often found myself coming home completely and utterly spent. And I started off being very idealistic, thinking that we can reach the ideal in my mind of a community centered around Christ who went out and spread the gospel through action. Instead I ended up cynical, often wondering myself if believing in Jesus was enough for community in this world full of sinful people.
That’s not to say that I don’t believe in Jesus. I do believe in Him. My doubt lies because of people, which I guess is a symptom of the cynicism that has been built up over the years. And that’s not to say I don’t like people. I do like people. I am not a bitter old hermit (at least not yet.) There are tons of people that I enjoy hanging out with. And I still try to give people the benefit of the doubt, and when possible try to look at them in the best possible light. It’s just that I now believe that in a world where everyone is a sinner, it’s impossible for the perfect community to exist, where everyone feels welcome and where everyone is happy together, and where everyone gives up their all for the common good. When I read about the fellowship in Acts 2 nowadays, the fellowship that I wanted so much to see in action, it comes across as an ideal that’s not achievable in this world.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
So anyways this was a long and rambling post that somehow got away from the original topic of mountain biking in the confluence. So I think I’ll try to end with the confluence. A confluence is where two bodies of water meet. The Auburn Confluence is where two forks of the American River meet. Where the river meets you see the beauty and power of nature. The majestic American river canyon was carved out of rock by the water that comes together here. When I see it and think about it I can’t help but be inspired, and my cynicism fades away. And I think on some subconscious level, that is why I love being outdoors so much.