Yesterday afternoon, I received some very difficult news. A friend of mine, Steve Jordan, was killed in a truck-bike collision on U.S. 401 just a few miles away. Any collision on the highway that involves the loss of life, whether it involves a bike or not, is devastating. But this is very close to home. You see, Steve was a friend. No, he was more than that. He was the guy that taught me just about everything that I know about cycling. But upon reflection, he taught me, and so many others, much more than that.
Much has been noted on the news in the last 24 hours about Steve. He held a key position within the NC Department of Health and Human Services overseeing the state’s mental health program. He was a husband and a father of three. He was, of course, a cyclist. But I got to know Steve through one of the most amazing acts of service that I’ve ever witnessed. Steve was a Christian. He trusted his life into the hands of Jesus Christ and walked with him in all aspects of his life. And even thought Steve was incredibly busy in his role as a husband and father and in his professional career, he still took the time to serve as the leader of the children’s AWANA program at our church, Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church. In this role, Steve led the AWANA Grand Prix each year — a pinecar derby contest — and he always had something great to say about each of the kids and their cars. In fact, whenever you were around Steve, you couldn’t help but be engaged by his smile and chuckle at the latest (fun-loving) practical joke he was pulling off! Steve lived out his faith. He wasn’t perfect– none of us are– but he knew that Jesus is Lord and that was all that mattered.
But it was January of 2011 when I really got to know Steve well. I recently committed to training for a triathlon and had little to no experience in cycling. I purchased a very simple bike and joined my good friend, Brett “Chick” Ciancanelli, for a ride one Sunday afternoon. When I showed up for the ride, I learned that we were meeting up with Steve and riding with him that day. About 2 miles into the ride with Steve, I’ll never forget what happened next. Steve slowed down (I was easily the slowest of the three of us) and came alongside of me and asked “is this you’re first time out this season?” to which I responded “it’s my first time out ever!”
From that point forward, Steve took an interest in helping me learn about riding. He helped me understand the best times to shift gears. He taught me how to ride the hills. He taught me about safety. That’s the kind of guy he was– not pretentious in any way. He wanted to invest in others and help you learn. On that day, I didn’t have a true appreciation for just how good a cyclist Steve was; I just knew that it was cool to have someone helping me learn about this new sport. And that’s what he did. He even went so far as to assemble a bike from a frame and components that he had in his garage and gave it to me to ride so I could get a true cycling experience. On the day he presented it to me I’m not sure who was more excited about the new bike — me or Steve!
As I got to know Steve, I saw his impact in other areas of life. I watched him as he interacted with his sons. He invested in them. He taught them. He, no doubt, left a lasting impact on them. He continued to serve in other ways at our church, even after he stepped down as the leader of the AWANA program. I believe he saw service toward others as a natural response to our shared faith.
I am deeply saddened by the loss of Steve. We didn’t just lose a great Christian brother on Wednesday. We lost a good friend. But as saddened as we are, we know that as a Christian, Steve is now in heaven at the feet of Jesus worshiping and praising God. And that is where we place our hope as we deal with our grief. Another good friend of mine, Pastor Randy Mann, recently wrote a blog post about “Responding to Tragedy in Light of the Gospel.” It is worth taking a few minutes to read. The perspective is invaluable and one I’m sure Steve would have agreed with.
Lastly, whether you are a cyclist or not, we all spend time on the roads. If you see a cyclist while you are driving, please slow down. Give him some extra room. As a friend of mine said on Wednesday evening, when you’re riding your bike, you’re essentially naked out there. I couldn’t agree more. The extra few minutes you’ll gain by driving a bit faster isn’t worth the price of another person’s life.