Tailwind and headwind

Pastoral Messages | June 4, 2020

My wife Susan and I went on a long bike ride in the gorgeous weather of last weekend. Sometimes when we’d round a turn on the bike trail, I’d shout, “Serious headwind!” We’d both lean into the pedals hard or downshift to make the cycling easier. Sometimes she’d pull behind me to reduce the wind resistance. Other times during the ride, we’d just sail along side-by-side, visiting happily. After a while, Susan would say, “We must have a tailwind here.” And I’d say, “Yup. We’re flyin’. Isn’t it amazing how different it is?”

On that particular day, because we traded the lead position, and because the wind was volatile and shifting, we were especially cognizant of whether we were in a zone of headwind or tailwind. Cyclists don’t typically appreciate a tailwind they may be under until they meet a stiff headwind and make the sudden comparison between the two.

The longer I live, and the more people I get to meet in life, the more certain I am of the tailwind that has powered so much of who I am and what I’m able to do. It isn’t simply an I.Q. or ancestral thing, nor is it merely an educational or economic thing. It’s also a skin color thing. I’m white, which I didn’t put in a particular request for, and male, which I didn’t specifically order up. But, here I am a white guy who, like many of you reading this post, happens to have sailed through life because of a tailwind. I don’t mean to imply for a minute that my life is without heartache, disappointment, or failure. There’s plenty of that. All I mean is that I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy advantages and privileges that have nothing to do with how hard I work. Some of those advantages and privileges are small. Some are huge.

We don’t usually understand or even feel the tailwind that’s boosting us until we meet a headwind. But some of the most rewarding experiences in life, adding up to the greatest meaning, have occurred when I’ve met a headwind. The power of that headwind wakes me up and brings clarity to my entire ride in life.

America has rounded a corner on its own bike trail this week and met a stiff headwind. Or, I should say, those of us who have grown unthinkingly accustomed to the tailwind that powers our lives, have at least caught a breeze of the headwind that people of color must constantly ride into. I am unthinkingly accustomed, for example, to climbing into my car and NEVER having to worry about getting pulled over without cause. This, of course, has nothing to do with my innocence and everything to do with my skin color.

The good news of the last ten days in America is that all of us – black, brown, and white people – are realizing that we’re on the same bike trail. Together. For all the years to come. By God’s design. What’s different, I pray, is that those of us who live with so much wind at our backs can take a few new turns with our lives and embrace some headwind with those who are tired of pedaling against it.

-Peter W. Marty, senior pastor

13 Comments on “Tailwind and headwind”

  • Kathy Lensch

    June 6, 2020 at 1:51 pm

    Thank you very much. I’ve been anxious to read your words that I knew would be wise.

  • Marie Lindmark

    June 5, 2020 at 5:07 pm

    Thank you, Peter.

  • Nilla Jean Harnisch

    June 5, 2020 at 10:20 am

    (I’m Georgeann’s Sister) Your message gave me a Wonderful Visual! One of the things I thought was we need to get out front in these times and speak clearly what we see and support those we know with encouragement and empathy. Thank you Georgeann for sharing this message. It is an encouragement to me! <3

  • Anke Maass

    June 5, 2020 at 9:13 am

    Great analogy! I have to believe in the goodness of people tho we are seeing some of worst when looking at the looters. The unity in many of the protest videos give me hope

  • Muna Strasser

    June 5, 2020 at 6:53 am

    What a great way to describe one of the greatest divisions this country has! One of my biggest disappointments moving back to the States to start my college career was the lesson that the country had not progressed at all in race relations in generations. I remember my parents warning me of what was to lie ahead. My mother is milk white, and my father is dark… they are darling, and today they celebrate 60 years of marriage (we were supposed to be on a cruise).
    I try to understand the fear behind racism, but it’s really difficult. Throughout my life I have seen my dad have objects hurled at him, unkind words spoken to him, and even in Italy, heard people brag about taking advantage of this foreigner just because of the color of his skin and where he was born. He is a man that hold a Bachelor’s, a Master’s, and a Doctorate, and has represented this country and the United States with tremendous dignity. He speaks five languages. He is kind, funny, and charming. My mother kept him out if the sun for a year before introducing him to her North Shore Chicago friends and family.
    Perhaps people all need to visit the Middle East to understand that the dark skin one sees from those of us coming from the area is highly likely the color of skin Jesus had.
    It’s hard for me to understand racism or classism or even worse, indifference. We do have to speak out against the injustices we see.
    Racism truly does not belong in our world, or classism or any other snobbery.
    We truly are at the mercy of who fell in love (or lust) and brought us into this world and into circumstances from which we rise up or fall into, sometimes because of our own poor choices.

    But racism just needs to leave. Hatred needs to leave. This is an interesting conversation that tries to express the anger being felt in our black community


    Thank you for your tremendous compassion. ❤️

  • Georgeann Kreiter

    June 4, 2020 at 9:01 pm

    I’m feeling so confused with so many comments coming from so many directions. Thank you for trying to calm my thoughts!

  • Marci Barnhart

    June 4, 2020 at 7:03 pm

    What a beautiful, thought provoking picture you painted for us. Thank you Peter.

  • Marcia Willi

    June 4, 2020 at 6:26 pm

    I’m glad for these words, Peter Thank you for the wise words.

  • Debbie Case

    June 4, 2020 at 4:33 pm

    A dear friend shared with me that she has fought the headwind of being black all of her life. As she shared one incident after another, I thought about the strength it takes to keep going and keep trying to be accepted. She told me she is so “tired.” Thank you for reminding us that we all hold responsibility in taking some of that headwind away so she and so many others can find the joy of the tailwind. The tailwind should be a natural beauty of life that everyone gets to enjoy not just those of us born into it.

  • Sheila Mesick

    June 4, 2020 at 4:06 pm

    Thank you Peter. So many new lessons to take in, digest, reflect, and apply to our lives. Hopefully this awareness will take us to a new level of intentional choices and practices.

  • John Vaaler

    June 4, 2020 at 2:30 pm

    Thank you for this message, Peter. It is especially important in these times that those of us blessed with these tailwinds recognize that fact and stand with all our brothers and sisters facing headwinds.

  • Victoria Felger

    June 4, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    When we hold hands together and move forward, we can make a formidable tail wind for each other! Thank you for your wise and caring words.

  • Connie King

    June 4, 2020 at 1:50 pm

    What a great way to put this! Enjoyed the analogy.

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