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Melissa Presser learned that along the bumpy road we call life, sometimes faith has to be a choice.

I’m a fitness enthusiast and a former indoor cycling instructor. I taught classes when I was in law school, and used the bike as a sort of pulpit, a dais if you will, to spread motivation and cheer during our almost hour-long ride. Endurance sports have always appealed to me because they require a lot of grit, and a get-back-up-and-just-do-it sort of attitude. There are moments you want to give up, and moments of great triumph. But the thing I love most about those long rides are the lessons learned along the way. An hour of labored breathing and push gives you perspective, insight and the lesson of choice: that choice you make to keep getting up and getting on that bike or running down that road. I can honestly say that I’ve never regretted one run, ride, or 4:30 AM alarm.

So this past weekend when I learned about gravel riding, it peaked my interest. First and foremost, because I had no idea what it was, and second because it sounded like the challenge that I needed. As the name suggests, gravel riding is taking a bike made for rugged terrain and then choosing to ride in that dirt and gravel. It amazed me that I had never had any want to ride on a regular paved road, but the idea of the dirt road inspired me.

Why would I choose to ride on particularly rough terrain when smooth roads exist all around me? It was the idea of embracing a new challenge, the excitement of the unknown, and the choice to be there.

When I thought more about that idea of rugged terrain, I remembered Father Mike Schmitz’ words from a recent Bible in a Year podcast I had listened to. He said, “You have to fight to be faithful.” That was the first time I heard it put that way. That faith was a choice. That sometimes faith doesn’t ebb and flow naturally as we would want it too, but rather is a stand-up-and-make-a-decision sort of faith. And that led me back to the gravel road, to my long rides, to the endless 4:30 AM alarm clock that I choose to set.

If I could make the decision to get up that early for Bible study and exercise, couldn’t I also make that decision to just simply believe? To choose the dirt road? To lean it to the dirt and sweat and grit of a pilgrim’s faith rather than run away from it.


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This created a long trail in my mind of endless possibilities. I started thinking about all of the choices I make daily, and the ones I do not. I can choose to rejoice, I can choose to be faithful, I can choose to believe. In choosing the dirt road, the harder road, I can embrace the uncut rock, the imperfection. Faith is very much like the long ride. The process is a tumultuous climb, but the ending is glory and hallelujah!

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If I could make the decision to get up that early for Bible study and exercise, couldn’t I also make that decision to just simply believe? #catholicmom


What great liberation! To let go of anxiety and worry and simply make the choice to enter that gravel road with gladness. To choose to stay on the longer ride. And similar to the days that I don’t feel like getting up and getting at it during those early morning hours, I can just choose to do it, and God will take care of the rest. One small choice leads to another which leads to another. So along with 4:30 AM alarms and long bike rides came the idea that I could also choose to fight for my faith on the days that I didn’t feel like it -- even more so on the days that I didn’t feel like it.

I didn’t feel so alone anymore with my thoughts and feelings. There have been so many times when I felt that others are just naturally gifted in faith and never contended the way that I did. But I never considered that others are contending too in order to hold on, in order to believe the things that they cannot see. They, too, are simply making a choice.

It is amazing how much the combination of dusk, sweat, and a long endurance ride will do for the psyche. I certainly don’t remember the pain of my last ride now. But what I will remember when I wake up tomorrow are the choices that I will make: a 4:30 AM alarm, Bible study, a sweat session, and a decision to fight for my faith.

Copyright 2021 Melissa Presser
Image: Wolfgang Hasselmann (2019), Unsplash