Believe it or not, Agony training season has already begun. I’m thrilled to be one of the staff members riding as part of Team CEM again. This is already my fourth time riding, but compared to the many people who have faithfully participated ten, twenty, even thirty times, I’m still a beginner. But I’ve learned that even though each year’s Agony experience is different, when those 24 hours are over, I leave the Sierra Valley thinking the same thing: giving, especially as a community, fills the heart with such joy. It is indeed better to give than to receive.
The mission of the Agony is to establish a community, give us a compelling purpose and vision, and then bless us with the joy of giving. Everyone involved is giving: the donors are supporting the riders, who are giving of themselves for the youth, who are taking care of the riders. And, as everyone who’s been to an Agony knows, over the course of the ride you begin to accumulate little mental pictures of these acts of giving: like Craig, praying through lists of names taped to his handlebars, and the student who can barely speak because she’s hoarse from cheering, and the hungry helper who hands his sandwich to a rider who’s in a hurry. The Agony is 24 hours of these moments of joyous, contagious giving.
"The Agony is 24 hours of these moments of joyous, contagious giving."
It isn’t all pretty, though: there’s also the sweat, the vomit, and sometimes even blood. There’s the struggle with exhaustion, and the pressing forward despite intensifying and spreading pain. It isn’t pretty—and that’s partly why it’s so beautiful. This pattern of beautiful, painful giving and the joy that comes with it is one we learn from Jesus. Hebrews 12:2 is an unofficial theme verse for the Agony Ride: “let us fix our eyes on Jesus, [who] for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross…” As He gave Himself for us, He taught us about the joy we can have as we give for others.
Jesus’ example teaches us another essential truth that applies to the Agony and the work of Christian Encounter: it would be worth it all just for one life. The immense value of each precious soul is so great that it’s worth dying for. What a joy it is to come together as a group to portray this love--both to these students and each other!
Nate Boyd, Executive Director